A couple of my Facebook friends died last year. I went to the memorial services and thought I had closure, but their profiles were still alive and I didn’t have the heart to unfriend. Then the other day I was startled to get an automated birthday notification from one them. It was time to unfriend but it got me thinking about what happens to our social media accounts and online identity when we die.
A few platforms, like Twitter and Google, have policies around accessing or deactivating accounts of deceased users. Or, you can choose to memorialize an account on Facebook.
The government addressed this concern by adding a breakdown of what to consider when creating a social media will on the USA.gov personal finance and estate planning site:
Social media is a part of daily life, so what happens to the online content that you created once you die? If you are active online you should consider creating a statement of how you would like your online identity to be handled, like a social media will. You should appoint someone you trust as an online executor. This person will be responsible for the closure of your email addresses, social media profiles, and blogs after you are deceased. Take these steps to help you write a social media will:
- Review the privacy policies and the terms and conditions of each website where you have a presence.
- State how you would like your profiles to be handled. You may want to completely cancel your profile or keep it up for friends and family to visit. Some sites allow users to create a memorial profile where other users can still see your profile but can’t post anything new.
- Give the social media executor a document that lists all the websites where you have a profile, along with your usernames and passwords.
- Stipulate in your will that the online executor should have a copy of your death certificate. The online executor may need this as proof in order for websites to take any actions on your behalf.
Thing is, a list of usernames and paswords might be less than helpful since we often change them. I suggest investing in a password manager, like 1Password. Then all you’ll need is one master password on that list.
Rocket Lawyer has a social media will that you can fill out online. It allows you to state how you’d like your online identity and other digital assets, such as email accounts and computer files, to be handled after your death.
It’s never too soon to get your virtual affairs in order.
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