Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are a great tool for helping you post updates, photos, even video, so that you can keep up with friends and family. But what happens to your social media accounts when you die and you are the only one who knows the password(s)?
Most people have a plan for what to do with physical items and assets after death, but what about online accounts like social media sites and emails? What happens to them when you die? No one knows how long our online presence will last, and it is possible for someone to hijack your identity after your death based upon information they obtain online. Therefore, if you want to prevent online identity theft and have your online legacy reflect your wishes, you need to have a plan in place.
Some states, including Oklahoma, have begun to address this issue. In 2010 Oklahoma was the first state to pass a law giving estate executors the power to access, administer or terminate the online account(s) of a deceased person. Nebraska and Oregon are considering similar laws. As for the online sites themselves, Facebook will remove an account upon request of the family or put it in “memorial status”. Twitter has a policy whereby it will work with someone authorized by the estate to deactivate the account.
Still, you don’t have to wait for the state to pass a law. It is possible and preferable to plan ahead. Make a list of the logins and passwords that are connected with email accounts and social media sites that you use. Draw up written instructions as to what you want done with your online accounts. Leave the list and instructions with other important papers or with your lawyer, so that if anything should happen, your estate can access your online accounts and act according to your wishes. There are also online sites, such as Asset Lock and Deathswitch that safeguards passwords and other information. Still, it is best to have your online information written down and kept with your lawyer as a backup, should the online sites go out of business.
Twenty years ago, an up-to-date will was the best and only way to distribute your assets and carry out your last wishes. Once that was all done, a person was just a memory to his or her loved ones. Now social media and online accounts need to be taken under consideration as part of an estate plan. As with many things in life, advance planning for your social media and online accounts not only helps ensure that your wishes will be carried out, but it saves others from the hassles of dealing with online services without any documentation from you.
If you find yourself, or your loved one requires, the assistance of an elder law attorney, get in touch with Newman Elder Law today to learn more about the long-term care and elder law services we offer.