Yes, Virginia, there is social media after death. Almost anything lingers forever in cyberspace, long after you’ve left this earthly plane. Just check the online “wayback” machines for proof of this. Yet, many of us don’t think about what happens to our social media connections when setting forth an estate plan but digital asset management is essential.
As we’ve discussed, you cannot leave your digital libraries to anyone per the terms of most online retailers. So, what happens to your Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and assorted other social media accounts? The short answer is they linger…forever…sort of like a cyber eternal flame of stupidity.
Everyone needs an estate plan and everyone needs to share our top-secret passwords with someone, preferably our executor, before we go. It sounds easy but during these days of heightened paranoia, with many of us ultra-vigilant about cyber-security (at least, I hope so), we change passwords frequently. So, what’s a social butterfly to do? Leave a “Letter of Instruction” with your attorney and/or executor, or place the letter in a safe place and TELL your executor where to locate it. Let’s face it, we all should trust at least one other person, right?
More than a dozen states have already implemented digital estate management laws in varying degrees, allowing executors to access online accounts. Yahoo and Google have recently implemented an “after death” policy whereby an authorized party can provide a copy of your death certificate and Google will close your account and delete your Flickr photos. They even added an “inactive account manager” to their sites so you can determine now, while you’re still breathing, what happens to your “cyber stuff” if there’s been no account activity for a pre-set period of time. I think that’s the way to go. Even if you’re still breathing, if there’s been no activity in your account for at least a year, I think the social media sites should delete you anyway. Can you imagine the costs of server maintenance for all of these “dead accounts,” pun intended. I expect many other social sites will start to think about the departed, or nearly departed, very soon.