How To Manage Your Digital Accounts After Your Death – Part 1
December 5, 2022
If you have preferences about what happens to your digital footprint after your death, you need to take action. Otherwise, your online legacy will be determined for you—and not by you. If you have any online accounts, such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Apple, or Amazon, you have a digital legacy, and that legacy is yours to preserve or lose. Following your death, unless you’ve planned ahead, some of your online accounts will survive indefinitely, while others automatically expire after a period of inactivity, and still, others have specific processes that let you give family and friends the ability to access and posthumously manage your accounts. Because social media and other digital platforms are such a ubiquitous part of our daily routine, and they can offer intimate snapshots of your life, these digital assets can serve as a key part of your legacy—one you may want to protect after your death. Alternatively, you may prefer to keep your online history private and have it permanently deleted once you’re gone. Whether you want to preserve your digital footprint or erase it entirely, you need to plan ahead to ensure your wishes are properly carried out. With this in mind, here we’ll discuss how some of the most popular digital platforms handle your account once you log off for the final time. From there, we’ll cover how to include these digital assets in your estate plan to ensure they are properly accounted for, managed, and passed on in the event of your incapacity or death.
FACEBOOKUnless you choose to have your account deleted, Facebook offers what’s known as a “Legacy Contact” for managing your profile after death. Using a Legacy Contact, you can choose someone to control your account’s operation and functionality after you pass away. Following your death, Facebook first memorializes your account. Once memorialized, the word “Remembering” is added to your profile name, and only confirmed friends can view your profile or find it in a search. Depending on your privacy settings, friends and family members can post content and share memories on your memorialized timeline. However, memorialized accounts are locked, so your original content cannot be altered or deleted, even if someone has your password. Your Facebook account can be memorialized regardless of whether or not you select a legacy contact. To have your account memorialized, Facebook simply requires your family or friends to provide proof of your death using a special request form and evidence of death, such as an obituary. If you’ve chosen a Legacy Contact, that individual can manage your memorialized account based on the permissions you’ve granted him or her. Some of the actions your legacy contact can perform include writing pinned posts, choosing who can view and post tributes on your profile, responding to new friend requests, updating your cover and profile images, and requesting your account’s closure. However, there are certain actions your Legacy Contact will not be able to perform. This includes logging into your account as you, viewing your direct messages, removing your friends, or making new friend requests. For more in-depth coverage of Facebook’s legacy contact service and how it fits in with your estate planning, read our previous article, Managing Your Digital Afterlife: A Guide To Facebook’s Legacy Contact.