1 September 2015 by

The Afterlife Management Tool or What Happens to Your Facebook Account after You Die?

We live in a time when the use of modern technology is not only a way to keep ourselves up-to-date but it is also a compulsory asset for the improvement of our career and network. Most importantly, the internet means our loved ones are just a message or a call away no matter the distance. As our online appearance is highly interwoven with our lives, some social media platforms have introduced options as to what happens with our profiles and accounts after we have passed away. Some examples are listed below:

Facebook

Facebook has been converting profiles to “memorials” after users die. This means that once Facebook has been notified of your death, your profile will continue to exist with the privacy settings you have set up and your friends will still be able to post on your wall, but the account itself cannot be updated.

However, should you wish your account to be completely deleted, your personal representative would need to provide a last Will as well as a birth and a death certificates.

The most recent option introduced by Facebook is “the Legacy Contact”. This feature allows you to appoint an “online executor” who will be entitled to manage parts of your profile. For example, they will be able to post on your timeline, deal with friend requests and update your profile picture. What would not be accessible for them is reading your messages and posting as you.

Please note you can select only one person to act as your “Legacy Contact”. Also although this option is available in US, Canada and UK, it is not recognised in all countries yet, so even if you are a citizen of any of the above (e.g. you have a British passport), but you live elsewhere, you would need to check whether this applies to you.

Google

Google was the first to offer a digital afterlife management system. Accounts such as Google Mail, Drive, Contacts and Blogger can be assigned an Inactive Account Manager (IAM). The IAM is allowed access to your data after you die, but cannot edit the content or act as you. In order for you to activate your role as an IAM, you would need to provide Google with the following:

1) A death certificate;

2) Full email from the deceased’s Gmail address; and

3) A proof of legal authority over the deceased’s estate (such as a grant of representation).

Alternatively, you can permanently remove your account after a period of time. This applies both to someone who has passed away and to those who decide that they do not want to use their account anymore. What you need to do is to choose a period of inactivity after which the account will be deleted.

YouTube

As YouTube has been a subsidiary of Google for nine years, establishing a legacy account depends on when the account was created. For instance, accounts created before May 2009 and not accessed since 2011 are not part of a larger Google account. This can be amended by connecting your YouTube account to a Google account which enables the use of the IAM.

Apple

Although Apple does not offer an afterlife management tool for accounts directly linked to online purchases of music and films, it can authorise the new owner’s future use of the IPhone, IPad or IPod provided there is evidence that it is what the deceased would have wanted. A copy of the deceased’s Will and a death certificate appear to suffice for Apple to deactivate any locks on the device.

However, in the case of Josh Grant, who was bequeathed his mother’s iPad, a copy of her Will and death certificate were not sufficient and Apple required her Apple ID and password in order to access the account. After hiring solicitors with fees of £200 per hour, they were able to access the account. The lesson learnt from this case is that if your wish is for your loved ones to inherit your digital device, you need to make sure that they have all the essential evidence.

Twitter

While some online services realise the importance of the afterlife digital tools, Twitter currently does not have one. Accessing a Twitter account following death will require knowledge of the deceased’s username and password. Nevertheless, the account can be deactivated after a death certificate and proof of identity have been submitted by the personal representative. Twitter’s terms and conditions are not as strict as those of other social media platforms, so the service provider will liaise with relatives of the deceased who are not appointed as executors or trustees, too.

Many of us use social media platforms but how many of us have thought about what we want to happen to them when we die?

Slowly, online services providers are appreciating that users may want there to be a “post-death” state to their accounts and are making this possible. However, there is no one rule for all! Your wishes can only be complied with if you have followed the relevant social media platform’s requirements. Something relevant to all of them is specifying what you want to happen to your digital assets in your Will.

Should you need to update your Will or for further advice on how to deal with your online profiles and what you need to do to ensure that these are inherited by the right person or completely deleted, please contact us on 0207 288 4700.

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