While the universal question has always been where we end up after we die, surpassing this age-old debate is this more socially relevant question: what happens to our social media accounts when we die?
A Complex Issue
It’s definitely a hot topic, according to a tech journalist at Mashable who covered this dilemma in 2014. It appears to be a somewhat complicated issue since it involves issues around identity and personal data as well as questions about who owns the data on our social media sites.
Another challenge is that no social media account handles the death of a member in the same way. As Mashable noted, while Twitter will delete inactive accounts after six months, other social media platforms just let your account live on unless a family member or law enforcement agency contacts them to shut it down.
Even then, your loved ones may struggle to find login information and ways to prove that they are related to you to shut these accounts down after you die. If you do not give your loved ones this information, many social media sites will tell you that they cannot help.
Solutions for Loved Ones
Social media sites have started to develop ways to help. Yahoo Finance recently reported that Facebook is allowing its users to create a will for their Facebook profile. Called a legacy contact, Facebook users can now designate someone to handle their social media account when they die, including how to turn the profile into a memorial page and handle existing friend requests or to request that the profile be deleted.
Another option you have is to plan ahead for the inevitable but yet often unexpected by discussing your wishes with loved ones within a will, living trust, or other document, as noted by The Atlantic. You can create a binder for your loved ones that contains all your social media accounts with login and password information along with instructions on how to use and/or delete the accounts and profiles.
Even then, instructions within a will or living trust must be very specific in terms of who is allowed to access these social media accounts once you die. One article noted the legal ramifications, which can involve legal access due to unauthorized access. While it may seem obvious to you why you are accessing the account after your loved one has died, the legal system and the social media platforms do not feel the same way.
For more information on how to address the issue of what to do with your social media accounts when you die, contact Lovett & House Co., LPA for an estate planning consultation that can include will or living trust creation.