Government advises Americans to create ‘social media will’ to handle Facebook, Twitter, email accounts after death

NY Daily News

Official site recommends choosing an executor to act on your social media wishes

If you haven’t thought about what will happen to your Facebook account when you die, the government suggests you get started.

Creating a “social media will” is now one of the government’s official personal finance recommendations, listed on USA.gov along with advice on home ownership and money management.

“If you are active online you should consider creating a statement of how you would like your online identity to be handled,” the site says. “You should appoint someone you trust as your online executor. This person will be responsible for the closure of your email addresses, social media profiles, and blogs after you are deceased.”

The recommendation, added to the site on April 26, advises people to leave the passwords to their social media and email accounts and explicit instructions for family and friends on how to handle these digital forums after they die.

As the user base for social networks like Facebook and Twitter continue to grow, these companies have had to address the issue that digital profiles outlive their users.

Facebook alone has over 800 million active users, giving rise to estimates that anywhere between half a million and 1.5 million users on the network die each year.

Twitter and Facebook both allow a deceased user's account to be removed by friends and family with the proof of a death certificate, and Facebook offers the option to turn a profile into a memorial page after a person’s death.

Google’s Gmail service asks the authorized representative for the deceased person’s estate to apply for the right to access the account, but notes that in order to respect the privacy of the original user, “Google may be unable to provide the Gmail account content.”

Newer social networks like Pinterest and Instagram, which has over 50 million users and was recently acquired by Facebook for $1 billion, don’t yet list explicit policies for how to deal with the profile of a deceased user.

To deal with the new realities of the digital afterlife, a handful of companies have sprung up offering services allowing users to anticipate their own deaths.

 

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