Most individuals today participate in some sort of social media, an example would be Facebook. However, many do not consider and prepare for the potential consequences that death may have for their digital accounts.
What happens to a Facebook account when the user passes away? Does the Account exist forever? Who has access to the content and for how long? Does the current user have any control over what happens to their Facebook account at death? These and other questions should be considered.
The following are the options at death?
- The account can be memorialized. This can either be done with a legacy contact a user chooses before death or done automatically when Facebook learns of a user’s demise. Both methods allow others to share memories and view content on the site, depending on privacy settings. Memorialized accounts with a legacy contact can be changed only by the designated contact while automatically memorialized accounts cannot be changed.
- The Facebook user can set up to have the account permanently deleted at death. This means all content is removed, including photos, posts, and other subject matter.
- In rare cases, a court order and proof that one is an authorized representative of the deceased can be utilized to obtain account information or account content.
Legal issues involving the death of a Facebook or other social media profile user typically pertain to “digital assets.” These assets can be of monetary value, of a sentimental nature, or both. The content can be the source of a legacy or can provide potential economic assets like a poem or a song’s lyrics. The opposite can also be true, in that they can become a source of embarrassment or even potential lost revenue from a family business or stock. All these possibilities should be considered by Facebook or other social media users.
If you don’t have an estate plan or your plan doesn’t include your digital assets, contact our office today. We can help you get your affairs in order or update documents if you already have a plan. If your loved one has passed, and you need access to his or her digital assets, we can help with that too. As part of probate or estate administration, we can explore the best legal options to gain access to the digital assets left by your loved one.
King Law is a full-service law firm with an outstanding team of professionals who work diligently, creatively, and compassionately on behalf of our clients each day. We serve the Upstate of South Carolina and Western North Carolina. Call 888-748-KING (5464) today to set up a consultation with one of our dedicated civil litigation or estate planning attorneys.
We also recommend you read Estate Planning for Digital Assets