The Benefits of Having a Social Media Will

Posted on 28 February 2013

In one of our recent newsletters (Social media ownership – who do your contacts really belong to? 6 Aug, 2012) we reminded our readers that the internet is forever and your posts, photographs and information will remain even if you move on and delete your account. But there is aspect to “moving on” story. What happens to your social media content when you die? How many usernames and passwords do you have that cover your online life (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Mail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, mobile phone back ups, and all of the other online accounts you have)? If you are a technology savvy person, that answer is probably – many. These social media platforms hold a vast amount of data about you, from personal details to photographs, blogs and contact lists. Some may even hold links to credit cards or bank accounts.

Whilst the digital death policies of the large online social media companies mostly state that they will assist the family of a deceased member to close accounts, many of these companies are based overseas and the process to supply the correct information could become more than many people are capable of pursuing. We should all have a normal Will which deals with our final wishes and distribution of assets, but your virtual assets present significant security problems. If you were to include any information about your Internet accounts in your Will, the information would then make up part of probate and would be public information. Commentators on this ever changing social media world, which to date has not seen the legal world keep pace with it, urge people to draw up a separate document which details the accounts your hold. So, what can you do to ensure your on-line and social media pages are accessible to your family or a close friend to de-activate in the event of your untimely death? Here are a few suggestions you may wish to consider and reasons why you should write a Social Media Will:

  • Read the “Digital Death Policy” of the platforms you use
  • Keep a list of your websites and passwords and update as changes to passwords are made
  • Appoint a Social Media Executor and supply them with a list of the websites you use, your user names and passwords
  • Consider sharing the whereabouts of these details with the executor of your Will
  • Use a password storage program and share the login details with your Social Media Executor
  • If you use passwords to protect programs used for business applications through digital or social media platforms, ensure the passwords are accessible to someone you trust. Not doing so could mean your beneficiaries are left without access to intellectual property which could form part of your estate or the lack of passwords may present issues for business partners wanting to finalise your business dealings
  • Not being able to close an online account, could leave the deceased person’s information open to hackers
  • Consider how you would like your social media pages handled. Should they be cancelled completely or do you want them made available for friends and family to visit

We all know we should make a Will and keep it updated as our circumstances change, but we should all consider the value of making a Social Media Will also. The more we become a technology driven world, the more important it becomes. Dooley and Associates can assist you with all aspects of your estate planning requirements.