Find an Expert Witness

Forensic, General & Medical
Expert Witnesses

Social Media and Estate Planning—What Happens to Your Facebook Account after Your Death

Social Media and Estate Planning–Protecting Your Digital Estate

Here’s something that you’ve probably never thought about, but should. If you are active in social media networks—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn—or if you have other online accounts, what happens to them in the event of your death, particularly if your loved ones don’t have your passwords? You might think that your family members could just notify Facebook or Twitter of your death, and decide whether to maintain your account or shut it down. Unfortunately, it has not worked that way so far.

In more than one instance, family members have notified Facebook of the death of a loved one, only to have the account be placed in a “memorialized state,” with a new password, and with limited access to the account. In one situation, in Oregon, a woman whose son had a Facebook account spent two years fighting for full access to his account after his death, and then was granted only 10 months of access before the company shut the account down.

State Legislatures Addressing Social Media and Estate Planning

In response to concerns about access to online accounts of deceased loved ones, a number of state legislatures have considered laws addressing the problem. Oklahoma was the first state to pass a law granting digital property rights. Under HB2800, an executor or administrator of an estate in Oklahoma “shall have the power…to take control of, conduct, continue or terminate any accounts of the deceased person on any social networking website, any micro-blogging or short message service website or any e-mail service websites.” In Idaho, SB1044 offers similar language, allowing the conservator of an estate to obtain access and take any desired action with respect to online accounts. The legislature in Nebraska is currently debating a proposed statute that would treat social media and other online accounts as digital assets, and five other states, including Oregon, are reported to be considering introducing similar acts.

Maintaining Access to Your Loved One’s Online Accounts

While these laws will give your executor or administrator the right to control your social media and other online accounts, you can minimize the stress and anxiety on your heirs by providing them with the information, such as usernames and passwords, to allow them to immediately take control of all online accounts. You can store this on your computer, provide it to your loved ones digitally, or give them a hard copy. Information on your computer or a loved one’s computer may be compromised, however, and hard copies can always get lost.

At Will Registry, Inc., we will safely and securely store all private information, including social media and other online account data. Contact our office online to learn more about how we can help you.

By Web Perseverance, Inc.
Legal and Internet Marketing Consultant
Cindy J. LeClaire is a part owner of

Copyright Web Perseverance, Inc.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

Find an Expert Witness