Have you ever wondered what will happen to your Facebook page after you die? Or any of your other social media outlets, for that matter? Who can “retweet” from your Twitter account when you pass away? Who can access your Flickr photo albums? Who can look through all those old emails you saved? What about those photos you set on private – can that content still be downloaded?
Facebook has over 650 million users, Flickr hosts over 6 billion images, and Twitter users collectively “tweet” over 95 million times per day.* Although the executors of wills and estates have been around for centuries, digital will executors are also becoming more popular, as our lives now heavily involve (and often, revolve around) social media and technology. With an ever-increasing internet presence during our lifetimes, a new concern arises: our internet presence after our lifetimes. Just as a traditional will dictates where our property is dispersed following death, a social media will is a useful tool to help our loved ones determine how to dispose of our digital assets after we pass.
The United States government’s blog** suggests the following steps to consider when creating your social media will:
- First, compile a list of all your digital accounts. Your digital accounts include email accounts, social networking accounts, photo accounts, bank accounts, and video accounts. You will need to provide enough information for an executor to access these accounts – this includes sensitive information including usernames, passwords, and pin numbers.
- Second, write a clear statement of how you want your online identity to be handled. Your social media will operates much like a traditional will by allowing an executor access and power to handle your digital assets in the way you choose. For example, perhaps you want a certain account closed entirely, another account partially accessible, and another placed on private settings.
- Third, appoint your digital executor. Find a trustworthy individual to be responsible for closing or maintaining your accounts. This individual also needs to have access to a copy of your death certificate because many websites will need to verify the executor’s power to act on your behalf.
Unfortunately, (or perhaps fortunately), nobody knows when they will need their digital assets managed for them. Therefore, much like a traditional will, the best time to put things in order is now – so that when the time comes, your executor will be able to carry out your “digital after-life” in precisely the way you want. If you are interested in managing your digital assets or appointing a digital will executor, please contact our experienced estate planning attorneys at Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri. Our attorneys have decades of experience handling complex estate planning matters, including wills and living trusts, and we are more than happy to offer you a free consultation.
Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.