Until now, when someone passed away, we offered a basic memorialized account which was viewable, but could not be managed by anyone. By talking to people who have experienced loss, we realized there is more we can do to support those who are grieving and those who want a say in what happens to their account after death.
Facebook recently launched a new feature that could help your loved ones through the grieving process in the event of your death. It's called a "Legacy Contact." If you are a Facebook user, you may want to go into your account now and designate your Legacy Contact to manage your account when you pass away. Here is how it works when someone passes away:
- A friend or family members lets Facebook know by submitting a Memorialization Request here: https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/651319028315841
- Once Facebook memorializes the account, the Legacy Contact can:
- Write a post to display at the top of the memorialized Timeline (for example, to announce a memorial service or share a special message)
- Respond to new friend requests from family members and friends who were not yet connected on Facebook
- Update the profile picture and cover photo
You also may designate whether your Legacy Contact can download an archive of your social posts. Alternatively, you can tell Facebook that you prefer to have your account deleted upon your death.
For specific instructions about how to name a Legacy Contact, visit Facebook's newsroom at: https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2015/02/adding-a-legacy-contact/. It is important to note that Virginia passed legislation during its last session on how some of these accounts might be handled at death . That legislation as well as the restrictions placed on these accounts by custodians do not provide the totality of answers we are looking for on after-death management of digital accounts, so please stay tuned as these laws continue to evolve.
Indeed, future legislation may mean that issues might eventually be taken out of Facebook's and other such account custodians' hands entirely. Until then, contact an experienced estate planning attorney to help you make arrangements for your “digital assets” pending future legislation.
You can learn more about this topic as well as other strategies on our website under the tab entitled: estate planning in Virginia. Be sure you also sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter so that you may be informed of all the latest issues that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning. However, proper estate planning is not a do-it-yourself project. Why not call us for a complimentary consultation at 757-259-0707.
Reference: Facebook Newsroom ( February 12, 2015) "Adding a Legacy Contact"