People who have a Facebook account today could very well have a Facebook account up to the day they die. Facebook has become so engrained in our societal fabric that your online profile is akin to a part of your overall identity.
So what happens when you die? Who manages, or takes down, your online identity?
Well, Facebook has now given you the power to determine who makes that decision. Let’s call them you “Techexecutor.” Facebook will begin allowing its members to designate what they call a “legacy contact” to manage parts of your Facebook account posthumously, according to the Wall Street Journal. Though, you can also choose to have your profile deleted entirely.
Making such a decision now may seem somewhat morbid and depressing, but it gives you the ability to address an important estate issue that routinely causes friction and potential emotional trauma. In fact, prior to instituting this new policy, Facebook simply froze the account of a member who passed away. This resulted in angst and consternation with heirs who wanted to edit the deceased’s profile.
Benefits of Naming a Techexecutor to Manage Your Posthumous Facebook Page
A key benefit to this policy is empowering someone you know and trust to essentially turn your Facebook page into a page of remembrance and honor. Legacy contacts will have the power to write a post to display at the top of your memorialized profile page, change the profile picture, and even respond to new friend requests on your behalf, according to the Wall Street Journal article. If they’re granted prior permission, legacy contacts can also download an archive of posts and photos from the deceased, but not the contents of his or her private messages.
Restrictions to Be Aware Of
Your Techexecutor will not have carte blanche to do whatever they please to your profile. For example, they won’t be able to edit what you already posted, or what your friends and family post on your page. This means if you chose to post a photo that may appear to be embarrassing or even offensive, the legacy contact can’t do anything about it, according to the Wall Street Journal article.
In addition, you can select only one person, and no backup. This is a perplexing policy since it does not allow for the contingency that the legacy contact pre-deceases the profile owner, or if the legacy contact and the profile owner had a falling out and is no longer close to the profile owner. However, Facebook reps have stated that this new policy is subject to change and there may be the addition of “contingent” legacy contacts.
As an estate planning attorney, I am pleased to see Facebook making this option available to users. It will encourage people to start thinking long-term, which is incredibly important, especially for younger Facebook users who put off thinking about their estate until they are approaching retirement age.
States are starting to recognize the importance of addressing digital assets and online profiles. Check out my blog about Virginia’s recent law regarding the management of digital assets.