As of May this year, Chinese citizens will be able to legally own online property, accounts, characters and items, with the same ramificatons as real life posessions. This will mean a spouse can gain ownership in the event of their partner's death.
This whole issue came to the fore when a woman attempted to access her dead husband's QQ instant messaging account. The owners of the service, Tencent, claimed that due to its terms and conditions not granting ownership of the account of a person - and therefore not allowing it to be "gifted, loaned, rented, transferred or sold" - there was no way she could be allowed to take it over.
There was a measure of uproar over this, forcing the company to change its terms to allow the woman to access her deceased spouse's account. Hoping to avoid such incidents in the future, the Baoshan Shanghai Notary Office is set to begin a virtual account legal service. The idea being that this office will track the ownership of online accounts and deal with any disputes.
As the Internet age gets older, there are increasing issues of what to do when people die. Should their Facebook pages be left online forever? Currently there's a feature that maintains the page in a "memorialised" state, where it is only accessible by friends. However it's not the only way to handle online social death. Dead Soci.al allows for the sending of messages once you've passed away.
Image credit: Spicy Tunas