What Happens to Your Facebook After You Die?

Why You Need to Think About Digital Estate Planning - Stash Wealth
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We know it’s not fun to think about death. But we’re all going to die. And anyone who dies from this moment onward is probably going to leave some sort of digital footprint behind. So how do you make sure your digital life is manageable after you aren’t here to scroll, click, and retweet?

 

First and foremost, no matter how old you are, you need a will. We go into this in detail in our other most recent article about the cheery subject of death and dying: Estate Planning: What It Is and Why You Need to Think About It.

Fun fact: The average person in the United States has 90 online accounts.

Beyond a will, here are some other steps you can take to help the people in your life manage your selfies, computers, blogs, files, and all other manner of digital existence. If you’d like a really sobering look at what can happen if you don’t take any of these steps, take a moment and read What to Do With Someone’s Online Accounts After They Die.

 

Enough doom and gloom. Let’s get on to the practical stuff.

 

Passwords

If you’re like most people today, your life now revolves around passwords and keeping track of them. (And if PetsName123 is all of your passwords, OMG. Don’t be that person.) Fun fact: The average person in the United States has 90 online accounts.

 

A simple solution is the most obvious one, write them down. Keep a list of your passwords, and keep it somewhere safe. However, there is an obvious flaw to this plan, keeping the list updated. Which is why we recommend a password manager. Most password managers allow users to designate a beneficiary who can then gain access to their account.

 

This isn’t a failsafe, however. Some passwords are harder to store than others; Apple passwords are notoriously tricky to change or recover after someone’s death, so it is worth making sure a loved-one is in the know about your latest key to your Apple kingdom.

 

Online Bank Accounts

It’s the 21st century, you probably have at least one financial account you manage online. In fact, it’s likely you have several, and that some of your financial institutions lack old-school brick and mortar stores at all. This means that you need to keep track of all your accounts, and make sure someone in your life knows how you are managing your money.

 

The passwords should be stored in whatever password manager or printed list you’ve chosen, but it is also important to make a note of any recurring payments (student loans, utilities, etc), and make sure they know about any investment accounts.

 

Most important with all your financial accounts is to set up a beneficiary and keep it up to date. Don’t get into a sticky situation where your ex or estranged parents are in control of your money.

 

Email Addresses and Social Media

This varies a lot depending on which email provider you use. So we’ll cover a couple of the big ones. Here’s a super comprehensive roundup from Gizmodo if you want to dig way into each platform and how they handle (or sometimes don’t handle) digital estates.

 

Google is on top of it with their Inactive Account Manager function. Click the link to find out how to set it up, and do it now. Set up a trusted contact who will receive a notification and access to your account after a certain amount of inactivity. (This should go without saying, this functionality might not be best for accounts you never check, this works best for email addresses you actively use.)

Most important with all your financial accounts is to set up a beneficiary and keep it up to date. Don’t get into a sticky situation where your ex or estranged parents are in control of your money.

Facebook/Instagram now offers a Legacy Contact Feature. This allows you to designate someone to have access to your public profile, and it’s right in the “Manage Account” section of your Facebook settings. They can then “memorialize” your account, by posting a final tribute post. They won’t be able to change much and won’t have access to your private messages, but they can make sure your account is no longer active. If you want someone to have full access, you need to make sure they have your password.

 

Pro tip: your Legacy Contact needs to have an active Facebook account. Which may seem obvious, but is important to note as more and more people are ditching social media.

 

Twitter is a bit trickier. It is possible for a loved one to request deactivation, though they don’t have a clear system worked out like Facebook. It is not possible for someone to take over an account after someone has passed, but deactivation is possible by reaching out to Twitter directly.

 

Outlook takes a very old school approach, and we are #notsurprised. They’ll ship a DVD of emails and attachments from someone’s account after their death.

 

Important note for influencers!

As of mid-2019 when this article is being published, you cannot pass on your social media accounts after you die. Your followers, and the revenue they generate, can’t be passed on to another individual. Immediate family members can memorialize your page, but this is a single post and can’t currently lead to anything ongoing.

 

Digital Assets – Photos, Music, Etc.

Apple is all about privacy, which makes legacy planning tricky. What makes Apple so great for privacy while you’re alive, makes things kinda complicated after you die. As we mentioned before, make sure someone knows your Apple ID and password. But even if they do, here’s where things get complicated in terms of files.

 

You’re not actually buying most digital music, you’re licensing it. So say goodbye to your iTunes library after you’re gone. Apps like games on your phone seem to be a similar grey area of licencing vs. buying, so there is a high likelihood they also will disappear with the original “owner.” As far as photos are concerned, those are yours, you just need to make sure someone is able to access them. Did we mention yet that someone should know your Apple password?

 

Dropbox is another big player here. Many of our careers and creative practices are getting stored in the cloud these days, particularly with Dropbox and Google Drive. Dropbox directly addresses how to access the Dropbox account of someone who has passed away in their FAQs, which starts with a condolence message, and then tells you to try their computer (assuming you have access), and then contact them with various forms of proof. Remember that Will we mentioned earlier? It will come in handy if you want anyone to have access to your Dropbox after you die.

 

You should also keep a record of any websites, blogs, manuscripts, or memberships you have online. This may be obvious from your password manager, but it might not be. All of this may seem like a lot, and it is. Our lives are becoming increasingly digital, which means we need better and better digital hygiene and planning. You don’t have to tackle it all in a day, or even a week, but it’s important to start thinking about sooner rather than later.

 

Overwhelmed? There are attorneys who specialize in Digital Estate Planning. It’s okay to ask for help.