Social media is a big part of our lives and has changed the way we communicate. Most of our days start with Social Media updates – from checking our messages to checking what the rest of the world is up to; not to mention, posting selected parts of our lives online. It helps us instantly connect with our loved ones via instant messaging apps, sending in-the-moment photos and videos.
But have you ever wondered what would happen to our Social Media accounts after we pass away?
Even after our passing, our Social Media accounts and all other online accounts would still be present and everything stays on the Internet forever. It is important to decide what should happen with your social media accounts after your death. Do you want to delete all your social media accounts or perhaps create a memorial page instead?
What you will learn from this article:
- What is a Social Media Will?
- Why do you need a Social Media Will?
- Who Needs A Social Media Will?
- What You Should Include in Your Social Media Will?
- What Happens if You Don’t Have a Social Media Will?
- How Do You Create a Social Media Will?
- How Often Should You Update Your Social Media Will?
- How to Secure Your Social Media Accounts?
- Why Should You Add Social Media Accounts to Your Digital Estate Plan?
- What is a Digital Executor for a Social Media Will?
- How to Choose a Digital Executor for Social Media Will?
- Do I Need a Digital Executor for my Social Media Will?
- What are the Roles and Responsibilities of a Digital Executor?
- What can Legacy Contact of Social Media Account Do?
- What Are The Legacy Policy Of Different Social Media Platforms?
- Covid-Proofing Your Social Media Accounts With a Social Media Will
- Things to Remember While Creating a Social Media Will
What is a Social Media Will?
A Social Media Will is a document that outlines your wishes on how your Social Media presence should be managed after your passing. You can think of it as a set of instructions on how your Digital Executor should manage your Social Media accounts.
For example, you can specify which of the accounts should be deleted or memorialized. You can even direct them to share downloaded data with your family. This way, your family can stay connected with you even after you pass away.
The Social Media Will should mention all the necessary details such as your personal information, the Digital Executor’s details, username and password, and how the accounts should be managed.
Why do you need a Social Media Will?
As the world dives deep into technology and we continue to spend so much of our time online, we are bound to leave a digital legacy. Chances are, all the photos, videos, messages, and emails will be on the Internet forever.
So ask yourself this: What will happen to my social media when I’m no longer here?
Social Media Will can help you protect your Digital Legacy, which consists of your social media data such as posts, videos, pictures, and messages. If you don’t have a Will for your Social Media, then, your Social Media accounts are left to the Executor or a frustrated family member to deal with.
Social media platforms hold our thoughts, expressions, feelings, and memories that make up our online identity. Perhaps you can create a “final post” or message in the form of pictures or videos for your family and close friends to remember you.
Who Needs A Social Media Will?
Different people use Social Media for different purposes. Whether you’re a social media influencer or run a business using social media or you use it as a form of entertainment, you need to consider drafting a Social Media Will to hand over your legacy to your next of kin.
So, who needs a Social Media Will? Anyone who uses it and wishes to leave a legacy behind using their Digital Estate Plan. In the past, social media was not considered something that can be “handed over,” but as social media becomes a big part of our lives, a Social Media Will is necessary to make it easier for your relatives or Executor to manage your account.
What You Should Include in Your Social Media Will?
Social Media Will should contain the important information required to carry out the will. Without the right information, your family will have a tough time managing your accounts as they would be left with the decision-making. You can choose to remove that burden by mentioning all the information required in your Social Media Will.
Here are some details that need to be added to your Social Media Will:
- Your personal information, such as your name and address.
- Login details of your social media accounts.
- Instructions for your Executor on how to manage your accounts.
- Information on your downloaded data from the social media accounts, where your data is stored, such as a Digital Vault, and data such as pictures and videos you want to pass on to your family and friends.
- Your Executors details.
A detailed Social Media Will makes things easier for your Executor to carry out your wishes. Without a Social Media Will, your loved ones may face challenges in getting access to your online accounts.
What Happens if You Don’t Have a Social Media Will?
If you leave the accounts inactive and inaccessible, your family has to deal with the aftermath, i.e., making decisions for your accounts and data which can only be accessed after probate. Additionally, sharing passwords without a Will violates privacy laws. To avoid breaking the law, use a Social Media Will to clearly state your passwords, which can then be legally accessed by your Executor.
You could also be susceptible to identity theft, where identity thieves would steal information of the deceased person by stealing death certificates, reading online obituaries, stealing your account information, and selling it on the dark web.
Furthermore, active social media users are 30% more likely to be susceptible to identity theft; users of Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook are 46% at a higher risk to be victims of identity fraud.
When the account is left inaccessible, there is a potential threat to the person’s profile where pictures, videos, or credential information can be stolen for years, going by unnoticed which can severely affect the natural grieving process of the family members.
Therefore, to avoid creating a tragedy such as that, a Social Media Will would help you keep your accounts and the data secure, either by deleting it or by storing the information in a Digital Vault.
How Do You Create a Social Media Will?
We all live different lives and spend our time differently online. While some use it to run their small businesses, others share their experiences online in the form of pictures and videos.
In both cases, the purpose behind creating a Social Media Will is different. While the former needs to pass on the monetary holding of the accounts, the latter person would want to share memories with their loved ones. Therefore, an ideal Social Media Will needs to reflect your unique purpose behind creating it.
So, here are some things to remember while creating a Social Media Will:
- Be of Legal Age- People who reach the legal age of 18 years and above are allowed to create a Will. It is important to consider drafting a Social Media Will as early as possible so you are prepared for any unexpected circumstances.
- Include All Your Accounts: If you have an account or have used it at some point, consider adding it to your Social Media Will so that your Executor would have no legal issues to deal with if you miss out on mentioning any of the accounts.
- Download and Backup Your Data: When you mention the social media accounts, include the type of data you have in each account, such as photos, videos, messages, comments, and so on to make it easier for the Executor to safeguard it and pass it on to the people you would like to have them. Knowing the type of data you have will make writing the Will easier.
- Management of the Account: The next step is knowing how you want your digital data and identity managed after your passing/death. For example, you can choose to delete or deactivate the accounts completely or memorialize them.
- Digital Executor: Choose someone you trust to manage your accounts and digital presence. The Executor will have legal access to the accounts and execute your Social Media Will according to how you would like.
- Update: As your social media usage changes over time, update the Will to add a new set of instructions. Maybe you’ve deleted an account or changed a password. Updating your Social Media Will makes sure your Executor receives only the latest information.
How Often Should You Update Your Social Media Will?
Our Social Media usage changes as we grow. Perhaps we become more active or just prefer not to waste time on it. Perhaps you want to change the Executor or would like to add/remove accounts. Therefore, a good rule of thumb is to review it every year and update it as your Social Media usage changes. “Ideally,” a Will should never be outdated.
This way, you can choose to leave behind a Social Media Legacy that will impact your family and friends positively after you pass away.
How to Secure Your Social Media Accounts?
Social Media might not be the first thing that crosses someone’s mind after a loved one has passed away. That being said, if left unattended, the accounts either stay inactive forever or can easily become victims of identity fraud.
Something as simple as providing login details to access the accounts and stating your preferences on how to manage those accounts, as well as data, can relieve the burden off your family to make those decisions for you.
Since our social media accounts are an integral part of our lives, it is important to know how each of the social media platforms deals with the accounts of deceased users:
- You can delete all your accounts or,
- Memorialize the accounts on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram
The social media platforms also allow you to download your data from the accounts and store it in Digital Vaults or a physical drive so that you can create a Social Media Legacy.
Safeguard Your Social Media Assets
While using social media accounts, the amount of information we share online is often overlooked. Your personal information such as your name, pictures, posts, and videos that are important to you, can be hacked and stolen. While alive, it is easier to get help to get back your information but dealing with a deceased person’s hacked account and data can be emotionally painful.
Securing Social Media accounts is a priority both when you’re alive or even in the afterlife. Safeguard your Social Media accounts through a Social Media Will to protect your data and here’s how to do it:
- Make a Plan
Making a plan for your social media accounts to protect your data might seem unimportant at first. But it is a good idea to think about your final wishes and how you can protect your data after you pass away. So think of these questions:
- What should I do with my accounts? Do I want to delete my accounts or let them live on forever?
- Should I download all my data or delete them? Where can I store them?
- Who do I trust to ensure my data is safe?
In your Social Media Will, leave instructions on what you want to do with the accounts as each site has different options to deal with the accounts after death. Mention the person who you would like to manage the accounts and your data.
- Use the Legacy Contact Feature Social media such as Facebook allow you to appoint a ‘legacy contact’ who can take care of your account after you pass away. They can memorialize your account and would be able to:
- Update photos and pin final messages
- Accept or block new friends requests
- Allow others to share memories of you
Choose someone you trust to handle your accounts so they can ensure that it is protected in safe hands.
- Use Password Manager
Make an inventory of all your passwords and log-in details of your Social Media Accounts. Then, all the details can be shared as mentioned in the Will through the password manager, a software that creates passwords for all your accounts.
Create a strong password for your accounts via password manager that provides access to your accounts using a master code that is made by you, the user. This way, the accounts are protected well, be it the web browser, cloud, or on your desktop.
Why Should You Add Social Media Accounts to Your Digital Estate Plan?
Social Media accounts are a part of your Digital Assets, which are part of your Digital Estate Plan. Securing your Social Media information enables your family to legally access your account. A Will for your digital assets, including Social Media accounts, ensures a hassle-free process for your executors to manage them.
Your family and close friends would have to face unique challenges that can be hard to overcome if your social media accounts are left out of your Digital Estate Plan. That is why your social media accounts are an important part of your Digital Estate Plan:
- By giving access by providing passwords and login details, your family can easily manage them according to your preferences
- They can download your data and keep it safe in a Digital Vault or an external drive
- Protect the accounts and the data from identity fraud
- Memorialize the accounts and follow through with any wishes mentioned on your Social Media Will
- Ensures no data is lost and prevent any legal disputes with social media platforms
Your Digital Executor will carry out your wishes for your social media accounts if you add them to your Digital Estate Plan. By doing this, your accounts are safely handled by the right person and ensure peace of mind for family and friends.
What is a Digital Executor for a Social Media Will?
A Digital Executor for a Social Media Will is the person you appoint in your Will to manage your Social Media accounts after your death. Upon receiving permission from the websites, the Digital Executor can either delete the accounts, create an online memorial, or pass on specific information to others in your Will.
If you are a social media influencer, you likely earn wages through social media which also needs to be protected. Perhaps you have a youtube channel with numerous videos and earn revenue through advertisements. They are assets by themselves and you might lose them if you do not allow access to your Digital Executor to manage them. Also, consider contacting an estate lawyer to properly understand how to manage your social media business accounts.
How to Choose a Digital Executor for Social Media Will?
A Digital Executor should have the right qualities to manage your accounts according to your Social Media Will. Here are some of the important qualifications to look for in your Digital Executor:
- Should be tech-savvy and know how to use the Internet
- Should be detail-oriented and carry out their responsibilities as stated in your Social Media Will
- Should be patient and understand your wishes
Do I Need a Digital Executor for My Social Media Will?
- Distribute all your Social Media Accounts
- If stated, they can also memorialize your accounts
What are the Roles and Responsibilities of a Digital Executor
A Digital Executor is one of the most important parts of your Social Media Will. Without mentioning your executors, your family and friends may not know your wishes and can get confused about who should carry out your wishes. So, the roles and responsibilities of a Digital Executor for your Social Media Will are:
- Managing your Social Media accounts by either closing them or memorializing the account (depends on your wishes)
- Archiving your data- files, photos, videos, messages, and playlists.
- Delete or store any files that you wish to be kept hidden.
- Inform online friends or followers of your passing.
- Distributing your social media accounts and information among loved ones.
What can Legacy Contact of Social Media Account Do?
A Legacy Contact can delete an account or memorialize it. Upon contacting the social media sites, they can request them to delete the account or memorialize it. Some legacy policies such as for Facebook, let you designate a ‘legacy contact to look after your account if it is memorialized.
The Legacy Contact can do the following:
- Manage who can post, who can see a post, delete posts and remove tags
- Manage tribute posts
- Update profile picture and cover photo
- Respond to friend requests
- Request the removal of the account
You can also download data from the websites and pass it on as your Social Media Legacy.
Based on a study on user levels of social media, Oxford Internet Institute stated that there will be more deceased users’ accounts than living by 2070. So, social media accounts are an important part of your Digital Estate that should be dealt with.
What Are The Legacy Policy Of Different Social Media Platforms?
Some social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have introduced a feature known as Memorialization. Networking platform LinkedIn also has a memorialization feature. Let’s take a look at how social media giants have taken measures to save their deceased user’s profiles.
Memorializing a Facebook Account
Users are given an option to choose a Legacy Contact. Steps leading to choosing a Legacy Contact are pretty simple and if you are interested to know more about it, have a look at our blog post on How to Memorialize a Facebook Account.
Once a Facebook user passes away and the Legacy Contact informs Facebook of their loved one’s death, Facebook turns the deceased user’s Facebook profile into a Memorialized account. Nobody can log in to a memorialized account, not even the Legacy contact. The word ‘Remembering’ appears before the person’s name in the profile. Friends and family members can post photos, videos, and messages on the memorialized Facebook profile.
If a user does not want their Facebook profile or page to be memorialized, they can instruct their Legacy Contact to delete the account.
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Memorializing an Instagram Account
Like its parent company, Instagram also allows its users to set a Legacy Contact to manage their profiles after they are gone. The steps involving Choosing a Legacy Contact are simple and if you are curious to know more, have a look at our blog post on How to Memorialize an Instagram Account.
A Memorialized Instagram account will not appear in the events and ‘people you may know on the list. The word ‘Remembering’ will appear before the person’s name in the profile. Nobody can add or delete the user’s photos, not even the Legacy Contact. Nor can they access the profile.
A Legacy Contact must send proof of death to Instagram and/or Facebook before turning the deceased user’s profile into a Memorialized account. Proof of death may include a death certificate or a link to the obituary.
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Google Inactive Account Manager
Google does not have the feature of Memorializing its deceased user’s account. The users can set up to 10 people as their Legacy Contacts. Google monitors account for inactivity. If a particular user’s account has been inactive for over a year, Google sends an email to the Legacy Contacts along with the links to files to be downloaded.
While setting up a Legacy Contact, the user has to decide what files, documents or other media are to be shared with their next-of-kin – this includes data on Google drives and Youtube. On account of inactivity, Google sends an intimation to these contacts, giving them three months to download the shared data. The deceased/inactive user’s account is then permanently deleted.
Memorializing a LinkedIn Account
Networking platform LinkedIn gives the next-of-kin two options to choose from: memorialize or close the account of a deceased loved one. Further, if someone is not authorized to act on behalf of a deceased LinkedIn member, they can still report their death to LinkedIn by providing necessary details.
The details needed to submit such a request to LinkedIn includes:
- Member’s full name, email ID, and a link to their LinkedIn profile
- Relationship of the reporter to the deceased
- Date of their passing and a link to their obituary
Subscription accounts like Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix of a deceased person can be canceled or closed by submitting a request to their customer care email IDs. Documents to submit along with the request include a copy of the death certificate, ID, and a link to their Obituary.
Covid-Proofing Your Social Media Accounts With a Social Media Will
COVID-19 changed the world in ways we never fathomed. Not only has it changed the lives of several people drastically, but it also changed the way we use Social Media. Times have changed, from working remotely, to hardly meeting friends and family, 76% of our screen time has increased during the lockdown.
This also means that we’ve evolved with our Social Media usage, such as posting our home life online and embracing it. But, the pandemic has changed our lives forever, not knowing when or what will happen, it is better to be prepared for everything. That is why Social Media Will would help you and your loved ones be prepared for the unexpected future.
Things to Remember While Creating a Social Media Will
A Social Media Will is an important part of your Digital Estate that contains all the information required to manage and secure your Social Media accounts after you pass away. Everyone who uses Social Media should write a Social Media Will as it is a proper document that allows you to distribute your Social Media data to your beneficiaries.
To know how you can write a Social Media Will with ease, these tips should help you create your Social Media Will with little effort:
- Choose More Than One Executor
While one person can carry out the Will, you can choose more than one- for backup, or just for them to execute a different set of instructions.
- Plan for your Social Media memorial in advance
Along with mentioning details about the Social Media data you have, you can mention if you want to have a Social Media Memorial. Additionally, mention details of the memorial such as who can see it, who can participate, and who will carry out this responsibility.
- Limit access to your Executors.
You can limit access to the kind of responsibilities your Digital Executors would have on accounts and data. Perhaps there are some files/accounts that you would like no one to see, thereby limiting access to the person who would execute your Will.
- Store Your Social Media Will
Your Social Media Will should be kept along with the Will for your Digital Assets or any other Will. Assign a place for it by entrusting it to someone who would take care of it along with your Digital Estate Plan.
- Mention ALL your Social Media accounts
This one goes without saying, you should mention ALL your accounts. It would be easy to access and manage the account for your family members. Whether you are inactive or have stopped using it, make sure to mention all your Social Media accounts.
- Update Your Will Regularly
A Social Media Will can be updated every 4-5 years, such as after important life events, changes in passwords, or if you deleted any accounts. You can change the contents of your Will according to your comfort and add/remove the content as you see fit.