For years, distraught family members were angered and hurt over Facebook’s unwillingness to hand over the passwords of accounts belonging to members who had passed away. Instead, Facebook had the policy to put an automatic freeze on a member’s account after learning that the member had died.
This left family members upset for numerous reasons. For one, it meant that they could not access their loved one’s final digital footprints. It also angered family members who wished to edit or take down their loved one’s online presence.
But in a change of policy, the Wall Street Journal reported last month that Facebook is now allowing its members to designate a “legacy contact,” who is allowed to manage parts of their Facebook account after they have died.
In fact, the legacy contact has the ability to turn the member’s page into a memorial of sorts, change the member’s profile picture and even accept friend requests on behalf of the deceased person. Though, legacy contacts don’t gain access to private messages and cannot delete the account.
Facebook isn’t the only digital company that has decided to allow users to plan for the posthumous management of their accounts. Google began allowing allow its users to choose “inactive account managers” in 2013 who are granted access to services such as Gmail and cloud storage after the user has passed.
Ultimately, with so much of our lives online these days and protected by passwords, it’s a very important thing to consider when thinking about your estate plan.
For more information, see our previous posts on How to protect your digital assets in an estate plan and Digital heirs and digital assets: estate plans for an online age.