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Your Social Media Legacy

Several articles have been in the news recently about who owns and gets to control the social media accounts of a deceased person. This problem has been brought to light by several families whose children have died and who want access to their child’s online accounts to preserve memories or find out about why they died, in the case of suicide.

To date, six states have legislation that would determine who controls your social media accounts when you die.  One bill in New Hampshire proposes to give the executor of a deceased person’s estate control over the social media and electronic communications accounts of the deceased person. Numerous other states and the federal government have legislation pending on this topic as well.

The various social media and electronic communication companies all have different rules governing what happens in the event of the death of a member and who gets control of the account.  Facebook has a policy of either deleting the account or memorializing it once it receives notice of a death.  The memorial page is a page that remains active only to allow friends and family to post comments on it.  Critics point to the fact that the deceased member’s family does not have any control over the site.  Such sites are often targets of cyber-bullying, which only adds to the grief of the family. Google recently introduced its Inactive Account Manager, which allows users to make a choice to either delete their data after a pre-determined length of account inactivity or to name heirs for the data.

Until all social media companies either take action, or are forced to by legislation, the best that social media account holders can do is to make plans to transfer ownership of these valuable accounts to heirs, just like any other asset.  Your estate planning lawyer can help you prepare a will listing all of your social media and electronic communication accounts and correspondingly list the names of the persons you want to bequeath those accounts to.  You can pick different people for different accounts, and that person will control the account and make decisions about whether to delete it or preserve it after you are gone.

It’s a new legacy for a new age, and estate planning for digital assets is constantly evolving.  Let our Charlottesville asset protection attorneys protect your digital assets and pass them along to heirs the way that you wish.

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