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How to manage the Facebook account of a loved one who has died

Posted Wednesday, September 28, 2016 by Pivotal Law Group

FacebookIn this age of the internet, many of our “assets” are now digital. This is why in June, Washington State passed the Digital Assets Act, which gives a deceased person’s fiduciary the legal authority to manage their “digital assets.” We addressed this Act in greater detail here.

Some custodians of those assets, like Facebook, have also enacted their own policies and online tools for directing who can manage the person’s account after they die and in what way. Facebook allows users to designate a “legacy contact”:

Legacy contacts can post a pinned post at the top of the deceased user's Timeline, respond to new friend requests, and update the person's profile picture and cover photo. They can also, with the deceased user's permission, download an archive of the user's photos, Timeline posts, and profile information.

Legacy contacts cannot log into the deceased user's account and see any of their private information, such as Facebook messages. They also cannot remove the user's past posts, photos or friends.

If a user does not designate a legacy contact, their Facebook page can either be “memorialized,” or deleted at the request of an immediate family member:

A memorialized account will have the word "Remembering" in front of the person's name, and will not show up in Facebook ads, "People You May Know," or send out reminders on the person's birthday. Memorialized accounts cannot be logged into, so memorializing someone's account also prevents the account from getting hacked.

But remember: if, under the Washington Digital Assets Act, a person names a fiduciary and authorizes them to have different access to digital assets, that direction overrides any terms-of-service agreements to the contrary.

This is a constantly changing area of law, and the interplay between the Digital Assets Act and terms of service (like Facebook’s) is still an open question. The important thing to remember is to make your wishes known as to how you want your assets – digital or otherwise – handled.

Click here for a link to the full article on Facebook’s legacy options, or see the link below:


Photo credit: 66 million can't be wrong, used under the Creative Commons license.