New Facebook feature plans ahead for users' deaths

Facebook recently introduced a new legacy contact feature in the United States to help people prepare for what happens to their profile after their death. No doubt this will be rolled out here in the very near future.

In a recent article Leighann Morris, deputy editor of leading digital news website dotrising.com, explained that the new feature: “gives users control over what happens to their accounts when they die. The security feature passes over control to a specific friend, who are able to pin posts to the top of a page, respond to incoming friend requests and control the profile and header image on an account. Additionally, they can download an archive of the user’s photos and other posts.

In Facebook’s security settings, users can now select a specific Facebook friend who will be able to control certain aspects of your page, like your profile and header image, after you die. Alternatively, users can opt to have their account deleted after they pass away.

With the legacy contact feature, Facebook is taking the memorialization process (a system already in place which disables an account after somebody has passed away) a step further. The goal is to make the online presence of loved ones easier to access for loved ones.”

Hilary Peppiette, head of Wills, Trusts and Executries at Allan McDougall Solicitors, welcomes this move by Facebook: “I am increasingly discussing social media assets with clients and always advise them to prepare a list of usernames and passwords, and account numbers where applicable, and place it with their Will. It is then kept safely and unopened until required. Of course, people also need to remember to update their list on a regular basis!

As well as social media accounts, people may also have lots of photos stored on their computers and other smart devices. Apart from the issue of being able to close down social media accounts and preserve some or all of the information saved in those, people certainly need to think about who they might want to control and own their online legacies.

People can do some very serious but also seriously fun end of life planning like this is on finalfling.com. It’s a great place to store digital memories, music, lists of passwords, and also plan your funeral in great detail. However, someone would need to know the username and password for THAT account, and indeed, to know it exists. The advantage is that it means only providing your trusted person (or giving your solicitor a note to place with your Will) with one set of username and password. And online users are much more likely to remember to update their information on finalfling.com, because they are online anyway.

All of this is also pertinent to Attorneys if the granter of a Power of Attorney has lost capacity.”

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