Each year, our digital lives are more important. We live, plan, socialize, invest and communicate in the digital world. Many persons across the world actually organize their lives and communicate primarily through Facebook. Until recently, when a person passed, Facebook froze the decedent’s account and prevented any action by any designated person or fiduciary to manage or memorialize the account.
Just recently, Facebook changed its policy allowing users to select user settings for post-death planning. Now users can select a setting and have their account deleted entirely upon their death. Alternatively, a user can designate a “legacy contact” with the authority to maintain the account after the death of the user, though generally changes will not be allowed after FB is notified of a user’s death. Further, the legacy contact can be designated with authority to download all data posted on FB by the decedent, which can provide a valuable opportunity for families to preserve information which the decedent posted on FB.
After considering the new policy, here are my suggestions:
First, since so many use FB, users should either designate that their account should be deleted upon notice to FB of your death, or, alternatively, users should designate a legacy contact. Also, in the user settings, give the legacy contact the authority to download all of the information ever posted for the user on FB. Then, choose the option to send an email to the legacy contact notifying them of their designation.
At the present time, the designated legacy contact can only be a registered FB user and thus an individual. Until this option is expanded, I recommend picking a younger family member who will follow your request at your death.
At DRC, we have been considering digital issues for several years. Our wills and durable powers of attorney are often drafted to include power to give a personal representative (the fiduciary under a Colorado will) and an agent (the fiduciary under a durable power of attorney) the authority to handle a decedent or principal’s digital assets. A court may very well find such a power in a will effective to deal with FB in the absence of a designation of a legacy contact. However, until that is made clear, users and families who heavily rely on FB should ensure each user designates a suitable legacy contact.