I’ll never forget when someone in my high school passed away due to a tragic car accident. It was so surreal, seeing their picture in the obituary section of our town’s newspaper and holding a moment of silence for them at one of our school rallies. Time passed, and people grieved. Then one day, I stumbled upon their old Facebook page. People had left comments on their wall, expressing their sadness and sharing prayers, but I just felt so weird. Their profile picture was still up. Their old posts were still there. Shouldn’t Facebook do something about this? But, I realized, that account was one out of billions - how would they know this specific person was gone?
Wanting to learn more, I found Facebook’s policy on this sort of situation in their help center. There are several measures one can take both for somebody else after they have passed and for oneself before something happens. Acting on behalf of someone who has passed first requires that you contact Facebook and let them know of the deceased person. You can either request that they memorialize the user’s account, or that they delete the account entirely. You might, however, need to prove that you're a family member. Memorializing an account keeps it secure, but also allows friends and family to continue to share memories about that person. This, according to Facebook, is their policy of choice when it comes to deceased users.
If you’re interested in protecting your own Facebook profile, Facebook recommends either appointing a legacy contact to look after your memorialized account, or straight up deleting your account then and there. Now, to me, that second option seems a little ridiculous for people who use Facebook regularly. Appointing a legacy contact, then, appears to be the best option for us. This person won’t be able to access your account in any form while you’re alive. Like a Power of Attorney, they’ll only take control when you’re no longer able to.
We live in an interconnected, increasingly online world that has more than one social media platform. Twitter, Instagram, and Google all have different policies for deceased users. I recommend checking out their help pages if you want to protect your account there. Once you start digging deeper, however, you'll probably realize just how many online accounts and passwords you have, and how complicated it might be to set up a legacy contact or some other equivalent for each site. Thus, ADK Heritage Law's strategy is to give clients the option to include powers for digital assets (i.e., all those online accounts) in your trust or power of attorney. Protect everything, even if you think that Gmail account in which you only ever receive spam isn't even important - because it probably is, at least in terms of your privacy.
Until next time,