Death is a topic people tend to avoid thinking about. But with 1 billion + people on Facebook, and 240 million Twitter users, as well as blogs and various other online accounts growing in popularity, what happens to the information used to access these accounts once you’ve died?
Of course, it’s not just social media. Much of our day to day personal business is now conducted online – everything from paying your gas bill to managing your bank account, taxing your car and buying your weekly supermarket shop. The digital footprint being left by individuals in the modern day is significant, and it’s growing, which means there’s a greater need than ever to protect this identity once you’re gone.
That said, many people aren’t keeping these important login details and passwords on file and, although there are no clear laws about what happens to someone’s social media accounts when they die, not having access to this information will mean that your executor will have problems closing your social networking sites and, more crucially, won’t be able to protect your personal information and identity. Often, an appointed executor won’t ask for these details prior to someone’s death, because they feel it is intrusive. However, it’s an important conversation to have, so your executor has a clear understanding of how you’d like your online identity to be managed.
Facebook, Google and Twitter all have individual policies relating to what happens with a user’s information after they’ve died so if, as an executor, you haven’t got access to the required information when someone dies, it’s worth looking into the policies of these sites. For example, Google’s website explains that ‘an authorised representative of the deceased user’ may be able to have access to information after careful review, but it’s not guaranteed.
Similarly, Twitter’s website explains that it will ‘work with a person authorised to act on the behalf of the estate…to have an account deactivated.’
See ITV news story on digital legacies (April 16 2014)