If you’re active on social media, Facebook probably plays a prominent role in your life. And now the social media titan can even play a role in your afterlife.
Today, estate planning encompasses not only your tangible assets—bank accounts and real estate—but your digital assets as well, such as cryptocurrency, websites, and social media accounts. Though social media may seem trivial compared to the rest of your personal property, a Facebook account functions as a virtual diary of your daily life, making it a key part of your legacy—and one you’ll likely want to protect.
Because social media is so new, there are very few state laws governing how your Facebook account should be handled upon your death. In light of this, Facebook itself is in nearly total control of what happens to your profile after you die. And without proper planning, your post-mortem Facebook presence can haunt the loved ones you leave behind. Since roughly 8,000 Facebook users die every day, the company has created a few options for dealing with your account once you’re gone. While it’s possible for you to take care of this on your own, many people are working with legal professionals like us to incorporate these digital assets into their overall estate plan to ensure their legacy is properly preserved and protected.
Here are three options for what you can do with your Facebook account when you die:
1. Do nothing
Unless Facebook is notified of your death, it assumes you’re still alive, and your profile remains active indefinitely. While this might not seem like a big deal, your profile will continue to be included in Facebook searches, People You May Know suggestions, and birthday reminders. Your friends and family likely won’t want to be constantly reminded of your absence, and even worse, ex-friends and/or trolls will be able to post potentially hurtful messages on your timeline. To shield your loved ones from this kind of thing, you should go with one of the other options.
2. Have the account deleted
You can notify Facebook that you’d like to have your account permanently removed from its servers upon your passing. Alternatively, a friend, family member, or your executor can make the same request after your death. This will completely delete your profile and all of its associated content from Facebook for good.
Additionally, one of these individuals can request that your account’s content be downloaded and saved before the profile is deleted. Content that’s eligible for download includes wall posts, photos, videos, profile info, events, and your friend list. However, Facebook will not allow any third-party to access or download your personal messages or login information.
3. Memorialize the account
In 2009, Facebook began allowing accounts of the deceased to be “memorialized” at the request of a friend or family member. Once an account has been memorialized, only confirmed friends can see the profile or find it in a search. Your memorialized profile will no longer appear in friend suggestions, nor will anyone receive birthday updates or other account notifications. When your account is memorialized, the word “Remembering” will be added next to your name on your profile. Depending on your privacy settings, friends and family members can post content and share memories on your timeline. A memorialized account is locked, so its original content cannot be altered or removed, even if an individual has your login info. In 2015, Facebook created a new policy that allows you to designate a family member or friend as a “legacy contact” to manage your memorialized account. This contact will be allowed to pin a final message to the top of your timeline, announcing your death or providing funeral information. The contact can also respond to new friend requests and update your cover and profile photos. The legacy contact will not be able to log in as you or see any of your private messages.
Preserve your legacy. Since social media and other digital property are such an important part of your life, you should work with us as your Personal Family Lawyer® to ensure that these assets are protected by your overall estate plan. We can help you name a digital executor, who can quickly and easily manage your Facebook account and other social media upon your death. We can also help you inventory all of your other digital assets and make certain they pass to your loved ones seamlessly.
Furthermore, through our Family Wealth Legacy Interviews, we allow you to create a customized video recording, sharing your values, stories, and life lessons with the loved ones you leave behind. Every estate plan we create includes a Family Wealth Legacy Interview component, because estate planning should encompass not only your financial assets and material possessions, but your most precious personal wealth—your wisdom, love, and leadership. Contact us today to learn more.