Why Social Media Accounts are Part of an Estate Plan

Are Social Media Accounts Part on One’s Estate?

Video by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
November 1, 2019

In this article, we will address the question of “Are social media accounts part of one’s estate?”. In today’s world, social media accounts and other digital accounts have become a vastly large part of people’s lives. In the past when people were planning their wills and creating estate plans, they did not have to consider online or social media accounts as part of their estate. Now, however, social media accounts are considered digital assets, which are part of one’s estate.

With that being said, it’s important that people can plan for how their social media and other digital accounts are to be handled when they pass away.   We will look at “Why Social Media Accounts are Part of an Estate Plan” and “What to Include for Social Media and Other Digital Accounts in an Estate Plan”.

Why Social Media Accounts are Part of an Estate Plan

As we briefly mentioned, social media accounts are categorized as digital assets, which therefore makes it part of a person’s estate. Unfortunately, many people forget to include digital assets and social media accounts in their estate plans. This can cause significant problems for the executor or loved ones left behind, because they will not be able to access the online accounts.

There are numerous stories of loved ones running into issues when trying to access online accounts; companies don’t often grant access just because a user has passed away, for legal reasons surrounding their user agreements. For example, a family may reach out to Facebook to try and gain access to a recently deceased individual’s account, but probably won’t have much luck if they do not have the username and password associated with the account.

The main reason for including social and digital media accounts in an estate plan is to make it easier for the executor of the will to handle the accounts once a person has passed away. In addition to including digital assets in the estate plan, a person should have a document with all usernames and passwords that relatives or the executor can gain access to.

What to Include for Social Media and Other Digital Accounts in an Estate Plan

We just mentioned the importance of having a list or document with usernames and passwords for online accounts, but that list should not be directly included in the will. The reason for this is that the will becomes public record once after a person dies (for creditor reasons), and you wouldn’t want the public to have access to your online accounts. So, the wise idea is to include instructions in the will or estate plan for where to find the list or document with all username and password information.

The will or estate plan is the ideal place for a person to state their wish for how their social media accounts to be handled if they pass away. For example, do they want the family to write a “final post” on the accounts, leave the account activated for a certain period of time or indefinitely, or if they want all accounts to be deleted once they’ve passed away? This not only ensures the deceased’s wishes are known, but also saves the family from having to make those decisions.

Also, if a person does not want their family to have access to their private email or social media accounts in the event of his or her death, this should be explicitly stated in the will. If social media accounts and digital assets are to be included in one’s estate plan, it must provide the executor the power to access, transfer and dispose of those digital and online accounts.

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What to Include for Social Media and Other Digital Accounts in an Estate Plan

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