What Happens to your Internet Accounts After you die?

Along with thinking about making a will and putting in place your instructions with what you want to happen to your physical property after you die it is also, in this day and age, important to think about what you want to happen to your digital property after you die. One part of this is your various social media and internet accounts.

Some people choose to keep a note of their various accounts and login details and leave them in a safe place so a trusted person can log in and delete the accounts but this is not the case for everyone. Under the Terms of Service for most social media platforms, they do not allow a third party to log in to your account so it will not be possible for a family member or friend to email the company and say that you have passed on and ask for your details. It is also the case that you may not want your family member or friend to be able to log in to your account and you may wish for these accounts to be deleted.

Many of the large companies and platforms have and are considering ways in which to deal with what happens to your digital remains but in the main, it is not clearly dealt with, especially here in Ireland. In the U.S. Facebook has introduced a function of adding a legacy contact. This function allows a person to nominate a family member or friend to manage their account when they pass away and once that person lets Facebook know that their friend or a family member has died they will memorialise the account and the legacy contact would be able to deal with the account in a limited manner. They can write a post to display at the top of the timeline, for example, to announce when the funeral is on and update pictures. The person can give their legacy contact permission to download an archive of their Facebook information if they so wish. However, this service whilst a forward move in the area of dealing with your digital remains is not yet available in Ireland.

Google also have a section where you can set up what will happen to your photos, emails and documents when you stop using your account. This is called your inactive account manager and is available in settings for your Google account. This allows you to decide if and when you want the account to end, ie. you can set up a time limit for when you haven’t signed into your Google account for a certain period. You can add up to ten friends or family members who can be notified that your account is inactive. You can also share data with them if you want. You can optionally ask Google to delete your account and all your data associated with your Google such as YouTube videos and private Gmail information will be deleted.

There are also websites online which allow you to prepare social media goodbyes in advance of your demise. It is possible to create video or text messages which are to be timed for broadcast from your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Google accounts months or even years after your death. You can sign up for a website that will keep tweeting as you after you pass away. It will analyse your current Twitter feed and will continue to tweet as you after you die…..

It is important to think about these matters and as the situation is still not clear in Ireland it would be advisable to perhaps keep a note of your accounts and login details in a safe place or place same with your will. It is clear from the Terms of Service for most of the larger social media platforms that if a third party does log in to your account using your login and passwords they will be breaching the Terms of Service. However, it may be the case that you wish for these accounts to be deleted or dealt with after your death and you could discuss with a relative or friend about arranging to do this. Alternatively, you could note it in your will or have a note placed with your will which outlines what you would like to happen to your accounts.

Preparing for your death digitally is just another matter to consider when thinking about making your Will. If you have any further questions, please contact Thomas Norris on 051 877029 or at tom@mwkeller.ie for further information.

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