Dealing With Social Media Content After Death

What happens to your social media content after you die?

Social media is a major feature of every day life but what happens after death? Your digital profile does not automatically die with you. Personal data on the web is increasing daily so should we give consideration to control of the content we leave behind?

Managing an on-line presence after death

Sharing personal photos, images and experiences was once just something we did within the family or close friends. It was easy for us to determine how those things would be passed from one generation to the next. Families knew how to control the distribution of their personal data after a relative had died. Now that sharing through social media is commonplace we need to think about how our relatives and friends are to have control of our on-line presence after we’ve gone.

Planning For Our Digital ‘Demise’

The way we authorise the management of our financial and property assets after death is by making a will. That’s something that is generally well understood. But social media is still very new to us in terms of the way we think about the content we post and who owns and controls it. What we share on social media doesn’t just automatically disappear when we do. Some platforms allow us to nominate someone to make our online presence less visible but it’s still there and needs to be managed.

If we do not give authority to our executors to access our online presence they will not be able to control what happens to it in the future. But we need to do more than just give our executors access to it. We need to let them know what we want them to do with it. Not everything we have posted may be suitable to remain online indefinitely. Most of us have no idea how the world of social media is going to develop in the future. We have to consider whether it is safe or appropriate for our data to remain online after we’ve gone. It’s really important to have a plan for your digital demise.

A Will becomes a public document

It’s important to remember that when a Will goes through probate it becomes a document of public record that can be read by anyone. So if you’re going to give your executors authority to deal with your accounts on social media you should not disclose passwords or confidential account details in the Will itself.

Use a Letter of Wishes for your social media accounts

Instead, give authority to your executors in your Will to access and control your social media accounts but provide the information needed to exercise that authority separately, in a Letter of Wishes.

We know we should exercise caution when we use the web ourselves – so why not make sure our executors also have guidance? Executors need to know what they should and should not do when acting in our name after we’ve gone. Give your executors a clear understanding of your wishes about your social media content. You can use one of our Letter of Wishes templates to help you.

Executors or someone else?

You might be thinking ‘why do I need to give authority over my social media to my executors? Why not a friend or work colleague?’

The simple answer is that data has value. It might not be value in the sense of immediate cash value but we know our data is valuable. That’s why it’s highly sought after by tech’ companies, advertisers and governments.

Your executors are the people who are legally responsible for all of your assets both ‘tangible’ (you can see and touch it) and ‘intangible’ assets.

Executors have many responsibilities – we can help

Executors have a big job and the burden of their responsibilities is heavy. Most non-professional executors have very little experience of dealing with a deceased person’s estate. That’s where our BE My Own Lawyer service can help.

BE My own Lawyer is our online service providing guidance, training and support for non-professional executors. The service has easy to use resources such as checklists, document templates and how-to guides. Executors can get expert legal support from a qualified solicitor at a fraction of the normal cost of using a lawyer by using the service. You can find out more here

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