When we think about an estate plan, the traditional aspects of our estate come to mind: what happens to my house? The money in my bank accounts? My superannuation? These are the items making up the bulk of our estate and legacy.
However, in a world where identity and presence is increasingly taking place in a digital sphere, it may be important to consider what happens to your digital self when the physical passes away. As channels like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter increasingly become the primary platforms for self-expression and public presence (see for reference Donald Trump), a comprehensive estate plan needs to deal with our digital legacy in addition to our physical one.
This article will provide an overview of how your Will deals with your digital assets, in addition to a handy guide for how you can make your wishes known for what should happen to your digital accounts when you pass away.
Under your Will
Safewill deals with your social media by including it as part of your estate, to be dealt with by your Executor. We also provide a section within assets to add notes about your assets and estate, and affords Will writers with the opportunity to make their wishes known in respect of their digital assets.
While your Will contains a provision for what should happen to your digital assets upon your death, however, it is important to note that social media platforms have their own internal policies and procedures that may take precedence over what is written in your Will.
What happens to my Facebook account?
Facebook is the most sophisticated digital platform as it relates to a digital legacy, and provides a number of options for users to specify what should occur upon their death.
Facebook allows you to nominate that you would like your Facebook account converted into a memorial account upon your passing. This means that your profile will continue to exist, and your contacts will still be able to post on your wall and tag you in photos. With a memorial account you are able to nominate a friend as your Facebook Legacy Contact, who will maintain and moderate your memorial profile in your absence.
Alternatively, you or one of your loved ones may request for your profile to be permanently deleted upon your death. It is important to remember though that with this, any photos or posts you have previously uploaded will be permanently deleted, and won’t be accessible to your family and friends.
If you wish to appoint a legacy contact, you can do so when logged in to Facebook in the General Account Settings, in the section titled ‘Memorialization Settings’.
What happens to my LinkedIn?
Unlike Facebook, Linkedin does not allow you to specify that you would like your account deleted upon your death, or to nominate someone to take control of your account. This can be specified in the Asset Notes section of your Safewill to guide your executor as to your wishes, however cannot be done through your linkedin profile.
Instead, your executor or loved one would need to request that your profile is taken down. This can be done by filling out a LinkedIn profile removal request form. They will need to provide evidence of your passing, including date of passing and link to an obituary.
What happens to my Instagram?
Similar to Facebook, Instagram will either memorialise or delete the account of a deceased user. This is triggered by the request of a loved one or friend. Unlike Facebook, at the time of writing this cannot be specified by a user in advance of their death.
No new content can be added to a memorialised account, and no new comments or likes can be added to the memorialised’s posts. Their profile, however, will remain accessible and viewable.
An executor of an estate can make a request to memorialise or delete a person’s account. In order to make this request, they will need to provide proof of death, and of their relationship to the deceased.
What happens to my Twitter?
At the time of writing, the only option to deal with a deceased’s account on Twitter is to have their account deleted. Twitter does not allow for accounts to be memorialised or managed by a third party.
An immediate member of the deceased’s family, or the executor of their estate, can make a request to deactivate the user’s account by contacting Twitter. They will need to prove their identity and relationship to the deceased, as well providing proof of death.
Specifying what you want to happen
Many platforms rely on the executor of an estate making a choice as to what they want to happen to the deceased’s profile. For this reason, it is incredibly important that you specify how you want your executor to deal with your digital presence – whether that is having your digital presence memorialised and maintained, or having it deleted permanently. This can be easily achieved with Safewill, in the Assets module of your Will.
Start your Will today, and chat to one of our helpful staff if you have any questions about how you can specify wishes for your digital assets in your Safewill.