Your Digital Afterlife

Facebook Legacy

Now that most of us have a digital presence (Facebook,  Google +, Twitter, Pinterest accounts, digital music libraries on iTunes, pictures on Shutterfly, email, cloud storage), what happens when we are no longer around to manage our various social media or online storage accounts?   An estate executor knows about closing bank and investment accounts, but what about social media and other online accounts which store our digital assets?   Will anyone have access to retrieve paperless account statements via email?  Could our digital footprint be causing an increase in postmortem identity theft?  Have no fear, digital estate planning does exist and we are sure to be hearing more about it as our online content grows.

A student specifically enrolled in my Facebook class to learn how to close her account due to suggestions she received from Facebook mentioning her deceased cousin.  I would agree that getting a friend request from a deceased relative or acquaintance is unsettling.  In contrast, I recently visited the Facebook Timeline of a deceased coworker and friend.  Although he passed well over 2 years ago, his Timeline is full of recent loving messages which hopefully are a comfort to both his family and friends.

Each online service provider has its own policy regarding handling of deceased account owner’s data. Most policies do not allow another party access to a deceased’s account.  Facebook provides two choices.  You can memorialize the deceased party’s account or family can request the removal of the account.  Using Facebook’s help feature you can use the search term “deceased” to find information and exercise one of these options.  Facebook also allows you to create a page as a memorial for a deceased individual (but not a personal account).

Recently Google released an Inactive Account Manager which allows you to determine what to do with your data from its various services once you can no longer use your accounts.  Your accounts can be deleted or data transferred to someone you specify after a specified time of inactivity.

As social media continues to evolve and more people have active digital lives, there are sure to be new developments on this topic.  Much is still unclear and confusing as Federal and state laws are inconsistent, and providers have their own terms of use policies.  Your estate planning attorney should be able to help address your digital asset planning needs.

Hmmm….remember when computers were supposed to reduce paperwork?

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. chikita56
    May 01, 2013 @ 08:55:48

    I had a customer-friend that passed away suddenly. I was in shock after I sent her a little greeting note on fb and I received a response from her husband telling me that she had passed.
    Every once in a while I visit her wall and I see that friends and loved ones leave little notes, and so do I.


  2. Rodrigo
    Apr 08, 2014 @ 18:26:16

    Hi there, just wanted to say, I liked this blog post.
    It was helpful. Keep on posting!


  3. Anastasia
    Apr 14, 2014 @ 07:16:44

    This website was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something which helped me.
    Many thanks!


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