Social media has become part of the very fabric of our society. Through our online accounts, we share personal moments, reconnect with loved ones and friends, and often create a kind of digital legacy. Instead of boxes of love letters and ancient photographs our parents and grandparents kept, we now have posts on Facebook and digital pics of everyday life on Instagram. If you have open and active social media accounts, you may ask yourself, “What happens to my social media after I die?” The answer to this question may surprise you.
Absent instructions to the contrary, social media accounts may remain online for a very long time after you pass away. That’s one reason it is so important to leave a digital assets inventory, along with instructions for your executor. Fortunately, some social media companies have addressed the issue of deceased account owners. Check your social media accounts to see if the providers have set up methods of handling accounts for deceased users.
Some companies allow users to set up a memorial or memorialized account. The account is kept open to allow friends and family to post memories. In fact, Facebook allows its users to choose how they would like their accounts to be handled – memorialized or simply deleted. You may also choose a legacy contact who will have limited access to your account.
Instagram may allow an account to be memorialized but does not allow you to set it up beforehand.
Some providers, like X, generally will not allow anyone to access your account, even after you have passed away. However, family members may contact Twitter to ask that an account be deleted, but there’s no guarantee this will happen. Likewise, Instagram allows family members to ask that an account be deleted but requires proof of family relationship and proof of the accountholder’s death.
Some accounts have no instructions for handling a deceased accountholder. For example, if you have a Snapchat account, you’ll have to leave your login information so someone can access and delete your account.
You can take care of the problems associated with social media accounts by leaving a detailed digital assets inventory for your executor. Include all logon information for your accounts, but also tell your executor what to do with your accounts.
Include your digital assets in your estate plan. However, never include passwords and other important logon information in your Will as it becomes public record after your death.
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