What happens to your facebook account on your passing

It is the normal course of events to record your wishes in a Will in respect of how your assets should be dealt with upon your death, but what about one’s “digital assets”? By this I mean your social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, just to name a few.

While a monetary value cannot be attached to these so-called “digital assets” and as such they won’t be included in your Liquidation and Distribution account, there is personal value in them not only in the photographs posted but in the personal information shared and these “assets” too need to be dealt with in the administration of the deceased estate.

It can therefore be recommended that these so-called digital assets or your wishes on how to administer them be included in your last will and testament.

If we just look at the terms of Facebook, there are settings where you can elect to appoint a legacy contact who will notify Facebook of your death and in doing so will “memorialise” your profile alternatively you can elect to permanently delete your profile. However both these options do have their cons.

Food for thought in this instance would be to include your wishes in your will, which may allow your family to either memorialise your profile alternatively permanently delete it but not before allowing them to download and save your most cherished personal pictures or “memories”. Having said this, it must also be noted that once your death is reported to the Master of the High Court, your will in fact becomes a public document and your log in details will then become a matter of public record. In this instance it is imperative to draw your attention to clause 4.8 of the Facebook Terms of Use which you agreed to upon sign up:-

You will not share your password, let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that may jeopardise the security of your account.”

Bearing all the above in mind, and considering the importance of your personal information, it can then be recommended that you state what you wish for your family and/or executor to do with your Facebook account but recording your personal log in details in a separate addendum (not a codicil) so that your personal and private account details are not a matter of public record.

Notwithstanding your obligations agreed to in the Terms of Use of each social platform, it may sound like an insignificant issue to deal with in the bigger scheme of things, however we all, on a daily basis, and some even more, share something on social media and in doing so have made it a big part of our daily lives. It makes sense to consider what will happen to this “personal investment” upon our death.

Holly Hughes

About Ian Mc Laren

Ian McLaren BA LLB (WITS) General Educated St Johns College, Houghton. BA LLB University of the Witwatersrand 1984 Founded McLarens September 1986. Right of Appearance High Court, October 1996. Expertise Litigation, Labour Law, Commercial Law, Family Law, Pension and Provident Funds, Customs and Excise, Wills, Deceased Estates, Trusts, Commercial Agreements, Reviewing and Drafting Government Legislation, Information Technology. Committees/ Trusts Law Society of South Africa Information Technology Committee. Trustee Verney College Educational Trust Other Transvaal Provincial colours for Practical Shooting. Third degree Black Belt JKS Karate. Photographer and motor cyclist Lectured for Continuing Legal Education on Information Technology issues.

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