Facebook Legacy and Other Digital Estate Planning

In the age of the internet, concern must be paid to the digital assets in addition to the physical assets of your estate when you pass away. While there have been considerable issues with this in the past, social media companies are finally instituting policies to handle the social media of a person who has died. Some companies like Twitter and LinkedIn will deactivate or remove your social media account when they have been notified of the death, but other social media companies like Facebook are taking digital asset protection one step further.

Facebook Legacy Contact

The Facebook legacy contact is the company’s newest way of dealing with a deceased account holder’s social media page when they pass away. You can appoint a person as your legacy contact, and it can be anyone who also has an account with Facebook. That person is notified upon your death of their legacy status and given access to your memorialized social media page.

The legacy contact is not given full access but is able to share a final message on your profile, change the profile picture, and respond to any new friend requests. In addition, the legacy can download a copy of what you have shared on Facebook but cannot remove items from the timeline, read your messages sent to other friends, or remove any current friends from the page.

Digital Assets and Estate Planning

Digital assets are all of the personal property of a person that exists online. This includes photographs, money on internet accounts like Paypal or Dwolla, social media accounts, and blog posts. The main issue with digital assets and estate planning is that there is a lack of state or federal laws regulating the area. As a result, it can be difficult to appoint a representative to take custody and distribute the digital assets of a person’s estate. Despite the lack of regulatory guidance for digital assets, estate planners do recommend taking some steps to ensure that your digital assets are protected in your estate plan.

Companies such as PasswordBox, SecureSafe, and EstateMap help keep all of the information about your digital assets safely in one place. The account keeps track of all user names, passwords, security questions, and authorized users for the accounts. If you do not feel comfortable placing all of this information online in one place, keep track of all of your digital assets in a notebook or other non-digital format. The person or people that you entrust with your digital assets after you pass away will have a much easier time tracking down and managing your assets if you collect all of that information now.

Some people are making copies of most of their digital assets like photographs, videos, blog posts, emails, music, and social media sites to an external hard drive, cloud, or personal computer and leaving instructions with how to access all of the digital assets in the estate plan. If you place the assets in something tangible like a hard drive it can be easier to pass along those digital assets to a loved one within a will or other estate planning document.

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