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Managing social media accounts after death

With the news that Google will delete accounts that haven’t been accessed for two years, it’s a reminder that everyone should be making plans for what happens to their social media accounts after their lifetime. If left alone accounts may be closed and precious memories lost.

John Roberts, partner and director at Austin Lafferty Solicitors, explains why we and our family and friends need to write down our wishes about our social media. This includes many seniors who are active on Facebook, Instagram and other accounts.

Helping your executors

Most of us rightly have concerns about ensuring that our money and assets go to the right people when we die. However, in this digital age, there is another good reason to make a will – to protect our digital assets in the way we best see fit.

With some forward thinking and planning, you can make this aspect of your death much easier for your loved ones if you are clear about your wishes and leave them the appropriate consent and access.

Why worry about digital assets?

There is no right or wrong way when it comes to deciding how you want your social media accounts to be managed after you pass away. What is important is leaving clear intentions as this can prevent family disputes during what is already an emotional time for your loved ones. In addition, no one wants their estate to be reduced by expensive legal bills because their family can’t agree on how to handle the deceased’s Facebook account.

Is it straightforward?

Every social media platform has a different option managing an account when the owner has passed away.

Some sites only allow accounts to be deleted and do not allow an account to be managed by family members or friends.

Others will allow the account to be left open ad infinitum, while the other option is to ‘memorialise’ an account, meaning the account is preserved, allowing a person’s legacy to remain online.

Putting wishes in writing

Once you or your family member have made up their mind about how they would like their social media to be handled, it’s important to add this to their will.

This can either be a holistic view of all social media accounts or a different approach for each one. Importantly, though, this means that an executor has the legal powers to carry out the instructions left by the deceased.

What about passwords?

While it’s important for an individual to leave their intentions about social media in their will, it’s equally important not to include the actual passwords themselves.

Leaving social media account passwords in a password-protected document or on a password-protected computer is not the best solution. Ensuring these are safe, secure, and accessible to the right person/people is paramount.

A better plan is to leave these in a separate digital or hard-copy document. This document can be lodged with a solicitor or other storage company that has cutting-edge security provisions.

Online assets have log-ins too

Social media is only one part of our digital footprint. Most of us will also have a number of other digital accounts with websites and apps, that also need attention after we die.

When we think about inheritance, our minds inevitably skip to property, bank accounts, savings, pensions, etc. but it’s perfectly possible that someone could have a reasonable amount of money tied up in PayPal, eBay, a gambling or gaming site too.

About Austin Lafferty Solicitors

Austin Lafferty has been serving the people of Scotland for 30 years from locations in  Glasgow, East Kilbride, Giffnock, Hamilton and Newton Mearns. Austin Lafferty is a Member of The Law Society of Scotland.

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Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

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