What you need to know about “deceased-user policies”
Social networking is it’s own category of digital assets, as these accounts are more personal to the owner, and often leave behind a surviving legacy. Their value is rarely monetary, but rather sentimental to those the Networker has left behind. When planning ahead, the most important consideration for the Social Networker is the “deceased-user policies” that are agreed to upon creation of the account.
For example, Facebook allows a family member to “memorialize” the account, so that friends can continue to interact with the Facebook wall, in memory of the deceased. Certain access and features are limited to protect the account holder, and the account can be closed upon a formal request that meets certain criteria. Therefore, in your will, you can merely direct your personal representative to close or memorialize the account. This same memorialization can be made for LinkedIn accounts as well. For Twitter, however, a family member can deactivate the account and receive an archive of the tweets by merely submitting basic information to twitter in a formal request. Therefore, the account holder may not be concerned with leaving provisions for such accounts, beyond an instruction that they merely be closed (or left open). There are some accounts, on the other hand, that will give family member’s access upon a court order. Keep this in mind for accounts that you specifically do or do not want others to have access to. If you do, then provide the username and password. Otherwise, you may want to include express language that prohibits access to these accounts. This will likely prevent a judge from ordering that your account be accessible to family members.
The Social Networker can start planning ahead today with the following steps: (1) make a list of your social networking accounts; (2) designate the accounts you want private verses those you would like passed on to loved ones; (3) read the user agreements for each account, or have an attorney do it for you (as these policies are often buried in legal language); (4) consult your estate planning attorney with your digital asset wishes, and incorporate them into your will &/or trust; (5) rest easy, your digital legacy is now protected!