Last week I talked about some of the important documents you should gather and store in a safe place so family members can easily find them when you die. Among them are any passwords for online accounts you may have. Today, let’s talk about what happens to your online accounts— specifically social networks — when you die.It’s important to know that leaving passwords behind so loved ones can access your account may not be enough. As the Associated Press reported last year, “most company’s ‘terms of service’ agreements prohibit anyone from accessing an account that isn’t theirs.” And it may take some wrangling to cancel a loved one’s account when they die. Facebook, for instance, says that “Verified immediate family members may request the removal of a loved one’s account from Facebook,” while Twitter says “we can work with a person authorized to act on the behalf of the estate or with a verified immediate family member of the deceased to have an account deactivated.” In order to do that, the survivor must provide your death certificate, their drivers license and a signed statement.
Facebook also allows you to specify whether you want your account deleted after death or if you want a “memorialized account,” where friends and family can share memories after you die. While you can name a legacy contact who can write a pinned post, respond to condolences and post photos, that person can’t log into your account and make changes.
Because social media is relatively new, this area of law is also relatively new and many states haven’t addressed the issue yet. The Uniform Law Commission has proposed an act, Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets, that can be enacted at the state level. The act ensures account-holders retain control of their “digital property” and can plan for what happens to those accounts after their death. “Unless the account-holder instructs otherwise, legally appointed fiduciaries will have the same access to digital assets as they have always had to tangible assets, and the same duty to comply with the account-holder’s instructions.” It has been enacted in Delaware and introduced in 17 other states. New Hampshire is not one of them.
Of course, not everyone wants their loved ones to access their social media accounts after they die. Consider whether you want others to be able to see all of your emails, private messages or your online dating profile. In that case, forego leaving the passwords and stipulate in your will that no one should have access to your online accounts, except perhaps your lawyer or someone to whom you grant power of attorney.
WebpageFX has created an infographic that provides a great visual overview of this topic that will help you understand each social media site’s policies and requirements to deactivate your accounts. To see it, click here.
Information about deactivating accounts:
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Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium opened in 1906 and is one of the oldest continually-owned family funeral homes in New Hampshire. We are the largest provider of funeral services in the state, and we operate three full-service funeral homes, two crematories, two non-denominational chapels and a cremation society. For more information, go to https://phaneuf.net/.