In ye olden days of yore, when someone passed away, the estate or family would pore over private papers, diaries, letters and any record of that person’s life, as part of preserving the deceased’s legacy. Now, a whole lot of that life record is online. So should access to your social media accounts live on after you die?
It’s a sticky situation, as the Washington Post reports, citing an example where the mother of a young man who died was blocked from accessing his Facebook account after his death. They changed his password within two hours of her request to be granted permission to maintain his account.
“I wanted full and unobstructed access, and they balked at that,” she told the paper. “It was heartbreaking. I was a parent grasping at straws to get anything I could get.” It took her a lawsuit and two years to get access to his account for 10 months, before Facebook ultimately removed the page.
Legislators in a few states are currently looking into proposals that would require Facebook, Twitter and any other social network to hand over access to loved ones in the wake of a family member’s death. That would in effect make that information part of a person’s digital estate.
Oklahoma was the first state to write a law on the topic, as Ryan Kiesel, the former legislator and author of the law says: “Mementos, shoeboxes with photos. That, we knew how to distribute once someone passed away. We wanted to get state law and attorneys to begin thinking about the digital estate.”
Facebook currently has an online form to report a death, at which time they put the account in a memorialized state where some info is removed, and only friends can view the profile. The wall is left intact for messages from friends to leave as they remember their loved one.
You can instruct Facebook in your will to allow your estate to have access with a download account of data, as well. Family members can also request that your page be removed entirely.
*Thanks for the tip, Dee!