What happens to my Facebook profile when I die?

Date: Aug 31, 2015

Estate planning can make provisions for almost all of your assets and memorial wishes, including how your property is distributed and even funeral arrangements.

However, people often forget about making provisions for what is to happen to their social media profiles when they die. Facebook is one social network that can often times display highly personal information that is viewable by the public, but now there is a way for someone to manage profiles of people who have past away.

Many estate lawyers have been advising clients to leave instructions about what is to happen to their social media profiles in the will. This usually involved leaving passwords in the document and trusting people to log-in to the profiles to change them according to the instructions in the will.

However, Facebook has come up with a new way to handle this increasing trend of managing profiles of people who have died.

The company has announced a new "legacy contract" where users can nominated a family member or friend to manage their account when they pass away. These nominated persons must notify Facebook that someone has died and, following this, the profile page becomes a memorialised timeline with a few new features.

A deceased person's timeline is able to post announcements or special messages about memorial services to notify friends and family. The nominated person is also able to change the profile and cover photos if they want, and respond to friend requests from people who have not yet connected on Facebook.

There is even an option where the nominated person has permission to download an archive of photos, posts and information from a deceased person's timeline. Everything you shared on Facebook can be stored for family and friends to have access to.

Part of the legacy contract is that the person will not be able to "log-in" as another person, they will merely have limited access to key services provided by Facebook to notify people in their network the person has died and to manage a memorialised timeline. The person is not able to view or respond to private messages

There is also an option to let Facebook know you want your profile permanently deleted when you pass away.

Previously Facebook operated a memorialised account system where the profile of the deceased was viewable, but could not be managed by someone else.

"By talking to people who have experienced loss, we realised there is more we can do to support those who are grieving and those who want a say in what happens to their account after death," said Facebook in a statement about the new service.

For more information about wills and what social media provisions you can include in it, contact an estate lawyer.