What Happens to My Facebook Account When I Die?
Social media, whether Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., has skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade. With the growth and importance of social media, people have become ingrained with their own personal social media accounts. Social media accounts have now become an intangible asset of its owner. So, the question is what happens to your social media account when you pass away?
Social media accounts are considered to be one of your “digital assets”. Digital assets include any type of computing device (computer, smartphone, tablet, digital camera), data storage devices, user accounts (e-mail, social media, blogs, iTunes), and websites. For many, these digital assets have little to no value beyond one’s own enjoyment in maintaining and utilizing the social media account. However, there are now Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media accounts that have great value. These accounts are now being utilized for marketing purposes and maintaining those accounts following an individual’s death could continue an extremely valuable stream of income. However, in most cases, when it comes to personal social media accounts and digital assets, the biggest worry focuses on what will happen to the account and who will be able to access the account following a user’s death.
Facebook through its terms of service has addressed its accounts following an individual’s passing. The account can be memorialized, which allows you to assign a legacy contact in the event Facebook is informed of your death (the legacy contact is then able to operate and maintain the account as an account owner); the account can be outright deleted; or the account can be downloaded and then deleted. As of 2018, there were an estimated 30 million active Facebook profiles for people who have died.
LinkedIn only allows someone to request that an individual’s account be closed following their death. LinkedIn needs to be provided with the member’s name; the company they worked at most recently; your relationship to the decedent; and the decedent’s e-mail address.
Like LinkedIn, Twitter, at this time, only allows you to make a request that a decedent’s account be deleted. Instagram also only allows you to request a decedent’s account be closed, but to make the request you must prove that you are an immediate family member. All three of these social media avenues now have accounts that are generating substantial revenue through marketing campaigns and follower growth. And, as you can see, all three avenues currently make it difficult to access the digital asset following the passing of the original account owner.
Proper planning is essential concerning digital assets. The current state of Federal and State law concerning these digital assets is chaotic. There currently are no uniform laws or regulations in place concerning digital assets. Court decisions are being made more and more concerning disputes over access to an individual’s digital assets. Therefore, proper estate planning now must address these digital assets in the same manner as other tangible assets. You should consider including information in your estate planning and financial planning documents about your digital assets. You should provide consent to your named fiduciaries and/or family members to fully access, or not access, accounts and digital assets.
Lake Shore Legal
Contact Lake Shore Legal and speak to one of our attorneys today to discuss implementing a thorough and complete estate plan. Our attorneys understand the importance of digital assets, can provide you with tools to properly inventory digital assets, and provide options at the estate-planning stage to handle proper digital asset planning. Lake Shore Legal will ensure that adequate provisions are drafted into your Durable Power of Attorneys, Trusts, and Wills so that fiduciaries have the right to access or not access online accounts following your death.