When we talk to our clients about estate planning, we discuss the division of assets and who will be responsible for those assets. Increasingly, what to do with “digital assets” —Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other online accounts—is part of this conversation. So, beyond sorting through photos, jewelry, journals and heirlooms, we now need to consider administering a loved one’s digital belongings.
Earlier this month, Facebook announced that users may now appoint a “legacy contact” for their Facebook account. A legacy contact is someone who can post messages to your timeline, respond to friend requests and update your profile picture. Previously, when a user passed away, Facebook would not allow anyone else to access or modify the deceased user’s account. Their Facebook account would be closed or “memorialized.” With this new announcement, Facebook will now allow you to set your account so that it is permanently deleted when you die.
For Facebook, a legacy contact may:
– Download a copy of what the deceased user shared on Facebook including photos, wall posts, profile information, events and the user’s list of friends.
– Write a post for the deceased’s profile to share a remembrance or final message on behalf of the deceased.
– Respond to new friend requests on behalf of the deceased.
– Update the deceased user’s profile picture as well as cover photo.
A legacy contact cannot read or download messages that the deceased user sent to friends, but Facebook may provide a copy of the deceased user’s messages if they have provided clear consent to permit this in their Will or other legal consent document. A legacy contact is also not permitted to remove friends, change photos, postings or anything else shared on the deceased user’s timeline or log in to their account.
Your designated legacy contact must be an existing Facebook friend of yours. To add, change or remove a Facebook legacy contact, visit https://www.facebook.com/help/1070665206293088. You may also choose to permanently delete your Facebook account when you die. To do that, visit https://www.facebook.com/help/103897939701143.
Facebook’s new policy highlights the question of how we handle our digital assets, including computers, smartphones and social media accounts when we die. And they are becoming a more frequent topic of discussion when we help clients create estate plans. For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 678-720-0750.