Nowadays, it seems like everyone has some form of online media account. In fact, there are over two billion active monthly users on Facebook platforms each month. However, in the next fifty years, we may see deceased Facebook users exceed the number of living Facebook users. In the past, these pages have often sat inactive and generally inaccessible by loved ones of the deceased. Most people would never consider the idea of naming a “digital successor” for their accounts, but often it’s because they don’t even realize it’s an option.
Facebook’s “legacy contact” feature gives users the opportunity to name a trusted contact who will have specialized access to their page after death. Alternatively, you may request complete account deletion instead. Neither of these settings are available to minors at this time.
Facebook also offers the option to request memorialization of deceased users’ accounts. You may report the death of an immediate family member through the appropriate documentation (i.e. an obituary). In rare cases, staff may request proof as substantial as a court order. If the deceased user had named a legacy contact during their life, such individual is automatically granted the authority to moderate the memorialized page’s posts and who may view them.
Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, provides a similar version of memorialization where deceased users’ accounts are permanently disabled (and cannot be logged into), but remain viewable.
Google offers the option for a digital successor in the form of their “Inactive Account Manager,” which is a way for you to share account data and/or notify specific people of your choosing if you’ve been inactive for a period of time (starting as soon as three months, and as long as eighteen months). You may name up to ten trusted contacts who will receive a message from Google once they’ve determined your account is inactive. These individuals’ identities are verified using their phone numbers. You may choose which person receives what data (if any at all) and the Inactive Account Manager will email them with a link to download it.
If you would like to have your Google account removed completely after your death, it will self-delete three months after you’re first considered “inactive.” Alternatively, you may just set up an AutoReply with a personalized message to let senders know you’re not using the account anymore.
Ultimately, it may be important to consider naming your executor/successor trustee as your trusted contact on all of your digital media accounts.
The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Brittany Britton is licensed to practice law in the state of California only.