What Happens to my Facebook When I Die?

Now that the internet has become a fact of life, problems are starting to rear their heads in unexpected ways. If you don’t plan carefully, your online assets and liabilities could cause a serious headache for your executor once you pass on.

Most of us don’t spend much time thinking about how much we rely on our online accounts. Consider just one online asset: your email account.

If you use your email to receive and pay your bills, will your executor be able to access those bills in order to pay or cancel them? If you own a business and use your email to communicate with clients, what impact will it have on your partners or employees if they can’t access your email? If you use your email account as an authorization for online transactions, will your executor have trouble managing other online account or assets you might have?

Apart from the strict practicalities, there are emotional aspects to dealing with online assets. If you store your photos online, for example, corporate policies could make it hard for your family to access those photos later. If you want to give your music collection or ebooks to someone special, you might be blocked from doing so by complicated copyright issues.

If you have valuable digital assets, or are worried about potential digital liabilities, you can help make things easier for your executor and your beneficiaries by planning ahead. Start thinking about what digital assets you have: computers, smart phones, tablets, external hard drives, social media accounts, websites, blogs, cloud storage accounts, and paid subscription services are all items you may want to list.

Many online services have yet to establish clear policies for how digital assets and liabilities should be managed once their owner has passed on. In some cases, it might be enough to make sure the person you’ve named as executor or power of attorney has access to your passwords. You might want to consider using a password manager so you only have one “master key” to your online accounts.

That said, for some companies, allowing another person to access your online accounts is a violation of their terms of use, meaning your account might be frozen or closed because a well-intentioned executor used the passwords you gave them. Managing access to your accounts is only the first step.

Much like any other assets, you should think about how they will be managed after you’re gone. If you have an online store that generates revenue, where should that revenue go? If you run a popular blog, would you like someone else to take over for you? Who should inherit your Bitcoin?

For some assets, it may be enough to ensure that a trusted person knows where you keep your passwords and what your instructions are for managing your digital assets after you’re gone. But if you’re concerned, it’s possible to include terms in your will to assist your executor in managing your digital estate, and knowing you’ve planned for these issues ahead of time can give you peace of mind.

If you have questions about managing your digital estate, or want to change your will, contact us!

This blog is for information only, and is not intended as legal advice. If you need legal help, please contact us.