Tag: Digital Legacy
The online social media giant Facebook has taken steps to respond to the concerns about one’s personal account management upon death. Up until recently, the accounts of members that passed away were either “memorialized” or entrance into the accounts were locked.
On Thursday, February 12, 2015, Facebook introduced a feature entitled “legacy contact” that allows a user to designate another person to manage parts of their account after they die. The member is also given the opportunity to simply have their account deleted altogether after death.
The following features can be utilized by legacy contacts:
- responding to incoming friend requests
- updating the profile and header image
- downloading an archive of a deceased member’s photos
Legacy contacts, however, are not able to view private messages.
The new setting is presently only available to residents in the United States but eventually will be introduced in other countries. Currently, our Security Settings on Facebook in Canada allow members to designate 3-5 friends as “trusted contacts” that can assist if members have trouble accessing our accounts.
The new ‘legacy contact’ setting could become a helpful tool for people planning for the future. However, it is only one aspect of digital estate planning. Facebook is only one social media site, and many people are members of at least 2 or 3. Some tips on how to address modern digital accounts and assets can be found here, here and here.
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What rights does an executor have to access, control, or terminate a deceased person’s Facebook account? Twitter account? Blog? Personal email accounts? Photo sharing accounts? There is currently no legislation in Canada expressly dealing with an executor’s rights with respect to a deceased person’s digital legacy. However, in certain U.S. states, legislators are addressing this issue.
Nebraska is the latest U.S. state to introduce legislation to grant an executor the power to deal with the deceased person’s online social networking accounts.
Legislative Bill 783, recently introduced in the Nebraska Legislature by Senator John Wightman on behalf of the Nebraska Bar Association, aims to clarify the rights of executors with respect to a person’s digital legacy after death.
In its current form, the bill proposes to enact the following into Nebraska’s state law as of January 1, 2013: “The executor or administrator of an estate shall have the power, where otherwise authorized, to take control of, conduct, continue, or terminate any accounts of a deceased person on any social networking website, any microblogging or short message service website or any e-mail service websites.”
The bill was heard by Nebraska’s Judiciary Committee on January 18, 2012. According to the transcript of the committee hearing, the bill has attracted the attention of “national companies that create digital assets and accounts,” and clarifying amendments to the bill are in the works that will correlate the proposed law with their user agreements.
Oklahoma and Idaho have already enacted similar laws granting executors the right to control digital assets and social media accounts after a person’s death. Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Indiana have older legislation dealing with email and digital files, which may need to be updated in view of the proliferation of social networking accounts.
In the absence of legislation expressly providing executors with the right to access digital assets or Court orders granting such access, information held by internet service providers may be protected by privacy laws or restrictive user agreements preventing the publication or transfer of material to executors. As U.S. legislators have correctly identified, clarification of the rights of executors in this area is welcome assistance for executors dealing with the unique challenges presented by the deceased’s digital legacy.
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