Death and Social Media

$20,000Tax Write-off (1)By Lizia Lim, Aitken Partners, Lawyers, Melbourne.

Often a person’s online presence/reputation is one of their most valuable assets, yet there are insufficient guidance and procedures for a deceased person’s social media accounts to be managed after death. There is no uniform law in relation to online accounts and each individual website/organisation has its own requirements for passing control of such accounts, if any exist.

Facebook has now taken steps to allow a deceased person’s account to be better managed after death.

Currently, a user may choose one of two options for their account after death:

  1. The account may be memorialised; or
  2. The account may be deleted.

Memorialized accounts have the following key features:

  • The word Remembering will be shown next to the person’s name on their profile.
  • Depending on the privacy settings of the account, friends can share memories on the memorialized Timeline.
  • Content the person shared (for example photos and posts) stay on Facebook and are visible to the audience it was shared with.
  • Memorialized profiles don’t appear in public spaces such as in suggestions for People You May Know, ads or birthday reminders and no one can log into a memorialized account.
  • Memorialized accounts that don’t have a legacy contact can’t be changed.
  • Groups with an admin whose account was memorialized will be able to select new admins
  • Pages with a sole admin whose account was memorialized will be removed from Facebook upon request

If a Facebook user has chosen for their account to be memorialized after death, they can now nominate a “Legacy Contact” who can manage their memorialized account. This feature can be accessed under “Security Settings”.

The legacy contact may:

  • Write a post to display at the top of the memorialized Timeline (for example, to announce a memorial service or share a special message)
  • Respond to new friend requests from family members and friends who were not yet connected on Facebook
  • Update the profile picture and cover photo

The account holder may also choose to give their legacy contact permission to download an archive of the photos, posts and profile information they shared on Facebook.

The legacy contact will not be able to:

  • Log in as the deceased user;
  • View the deceased user’s private messages;
  • Delete a post or picture (this will need to be reported to Facebook, who may delete it); or
  • Remove any friends.

A Facebook account will be memorialized upon a family member or friend contacting Facebook and providing proof of death.

The legacy contact feature is a positive step towards allowing people greater comfort, security and control over their online presence and reputation after death.

It is increasingly important for Willmakers to think about the management of their online accounts and digital assets after death, apart from their Facebook account. You may consider the appointment of a digital executor in your Will, and provide instructions on how you wish your accounts to be managed. It may also be a good idea to store relevant passwords with your Will, to enable your executor to easily manage these accounts.

The MSI Global Alliance team are well equipped to advise you about the management of your online accounts/digital assets.


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