What happens to our social media accounts when we die?

What happens to all our social media when we die? It depends on the accounts you hold.

Facebook

Facebook has launched its ‘Legacy Contact’ feature. Historically, Facebook froze the accounts of deceased users, however this feature allows users to designate a person who will receive limited posthumous access to their account.

This represents a significant change for one of the most-used online services in history and signifies the growing importance of how online accounts are treated after a user dies.

A recent report found that 78% of relatives had difficulty managing online assets belonging to the deceased and 20% were unable to deal at all.

So what are the options with for accounts with ‘Legacy Contact’?

Permanent removal

A representative will need to provide a court document confirming power of attorney, a Will and birth and death certificates.

‘Memoralised’

This allows others to post on its timeline but the account itself cannot be updated.

Nominated Legacy Contact

The Legacy Contact will manage parts of the account; they may be contacted when nominated or when the user dies, though this is not available in all countries yet.

Apple

Apple accounts are often used for buying music or films. These digital format assets are deleted with an account but ‘Family Sharing’ during the user’s lifetime allows access to digital assets to up to six other people.

Apple devices such as iPhones and iPads are treated differently.

By submitting a death certificate and a Will specifying that they are being bequeathed to a beneficiary, Apple can deactivate any locks on devices for future use by the new owner. The deceased’s Apple ID number makes the process more straightforward.

Twitter

Unlike other platforms, Twitter does not yet have a dedicated function to manage an account after the user has died. To gain access to a Twitter account the user name and password will actually have to be provided to a relative or trusted associate prior to death.

To deactivate and account a representative must provide death certificate and identification.

Twitter will liaise with executors of a Will as well as relatives of the deceased.

Google

The ‘Inactive Account Manager’ allows users to nominate contacts that can access some features of their Google account after a specified period of time.

A death certificate, full email from the deceased’s Gmail address and proof of legal authority over the estate are required when advising Google of the death of a user.

So what’s next?

What is certain, apart from death, is that these are assets which need to be carefully managed or potentially lost forever.

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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