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Social media profiles are not the top concern for people planning their estate, but, online accounts contain an enormous amount of personal data. What happens to these accounts? Accounting for digital assets, such as social media accounts and hard-drive backups is worth considering. Here is what a few online services provide in terms of planning:

  • Facebook allows you to designate someone as your legacy contact. After your death, this person can change your profile photo, respond to friend requests, and write a post to appear at the top of your profile. Your legacy contact cannot read your messages, but can download an archive of your public activity such as posts and likes. Another option is to set your Facebook account to be deleted when Facebook is notified of your death. Instagram is owned by Facebook, but your Facebook legacy contact will not have access to your Instagram account. Instead, Instagram has its own option to memorialize an account.
  • Google has an inactive account manager which allows you to designate a certain person or people to become executors of your account once you die or are inactive. The manager can be set to forward an email prewritten by you to your executor after you fail to log in for a certain number of months. You may choose to give this person limited or full access to your account, or you also have the option to simply have Google delete your account.
  • Twitter does not have a legacy contact feature, but an immediate family member can delete your account upon producing a death certificate and other documents. If a user becomes incapacitated, a power of attorney is needed for someone to delete their account.
  • Other services such as Tumblr, Snapchat and LinkedIn, have no death planning procedures, but they allow next-of-kin to delete an account after providing proper documentation.
  • Online backups can be tricky, because security protocols generally call for data to be encrypted, and the most secure encryption makes access impossible without the password, even by the backup service provider itself. The best solution is to share the encryption key with a trusted loved one.

 

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