Do you use social media every day without a second thought? Is Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram the first thing you check when you wake up? If so, have you ever thought about how you want your online presence managed in the event you pass away?
Most of us haven’t thought about what would happen to the life we’ve created online once we’re gone. But we spend so much of our time on social media that we need to think about this (no matter how morbid it seems). And that brings us to the importance of creating a social media will.
Let’s look at exactly what a social media will is, what it does for you, if it’s truly necessary, and how you can go about drafting one.
Managing Your Social Media Presence After You Pass Away
The purpose of having a social media will is to manage your social media presence after you pass away in accordance with your wishes.
Even though we might not be there to post updates, our accounts will still be active. People can still interact with “us.” They can view our past photos, tag us in theirs, or mention us in passing.
If you’ve experienced a friend or family member passing away, you might have seen this play out. This is especially true for Facebook, where surviving friends can memorialize a person’s page. Others can post stories and pictures, virtually gathering together in honor of someone’s memory.
Deciding what to do with your social media accounts after your death is an extremely important part of your overall estate plan. If you don’t have a social media will in place, then it might be difficult for your family or friends to gain access to your accounts to handle them as you wish.
When Is a Social Media Will Needed?
Generally, social media wills are for those who rely heavily on social media for personal or business use or want to ensure any accounts in their names are handled in a certain way after they pass.
If it’s your main form of communicating with the world, you want to look into creating one. Those who lead more private lives or those who don’t have social media accounts probably don’t need a will dedicated to this, as there’s no presence to manage.
This isn’t just for those with Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram accounts, either — this is for those who own a blog, site, or other piece of “online real estate.” If you have a connection with an online community who would be concerned about your lack of activity, you also want to designate someone to control your accounts after you pass.
What You Need to Consider
When drafting a social media will, you need to take a few factors into consideration.
Create a list of usernames and passwords for:
- Each social media platform you use,
- All email accounts you use,
- Any websites or blogs you own,
- Any forums you’re a member of, and
- Any other online community you connect with on a regular basis.
Determine exactly how you want your profiles handled after your death, so your family can amend them according to your wishes:
- Do you want them deleted?
- Do you want them maintained?
- Do you want them to stay around permanently, or just for a set period of time?
- If they do stay, should people be allowed to comment?
Try to leave instructions on how those who survive you can handle your social media accounts by reviewing privacy policies of the platforms you use. For example, Twitter specifically states how to request that a user’s account be deactivated, and they also require a death certificate. Your will should include that your executor needs a copy of your death certificate.
It’s understandable you might not want to share your social media accounts with certain people, but you need to select one person you can trust enough with the information to serve as your executor. Be sure to review your instructions with that person so they understand how you want everything to be handled.
Resources You Can Use
Do you think a social media will is something you should create? Drafting one doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are a list of resources you can use that will help:
- USA.gov has a useful social media will template in an Excel format you can download, along with a list of considerations to take into account
- Rocket Lawyer allows you to draft a social media will
- DeadSocial.org, a UK startup founded in 2012, is one of the leading services for helping individuals and families plan for handling digital assets after death. They have full guides on how to plan for each major social media platform, as well as blogs and websites. They also offer a free planning template for Excel.
- Mashable has a great infographic that quickly reviews privacy policies and who has a right to the content on your platforms after you pass away.
- If you’re wary of keeping a list of username and passwords around (or don’t think you’ll remember to update it), try an online tool like Legacy Box. It allows you to save your passwords and designate an heir to receive them in the event you pass away.
A social media will doesn’t have to be an involved document. It shouldn’t take you long to make one, and it will make a big difference for your family and friends if you unexpectedly pass away.
Trying to find the usernames, passwords, or email accounts you use will be difficult when they’re grieving. Make things easier by giving them the necessary information and instructions on how you want your digital life managed after you’re gone.