When was your last Facebook post? Maybe more importantly, when did you update your Facebook beneficiary designation? Facebook, the world’s most popular social network, recently changed its policy to allow users to designate a “legacy contact.” The legacy contact will be permitted to manage portions of the users’ account posthumously.
Facebook initially froze deceased users’ accounts upon receiving notice of the death. This original, hard-line policy angered many users’ family members, heirs and other users who wanted to edit the deceased’s account or provide information to friends. Google, traditionally at the forefront, became the first Internet company to permit users to select digital heir for its Gmail email service and other services. Facebook has followed Google’s lead and finally welcomed legacy contacts.
The legacy contacts will be able to post to users’ pages, change the profile picture, and even respond to friend requests. There are numerous settings and levels of permission which can be granted, including access to the decedents’ posts and photos. The legacy contact cannot edit the decedent’s posts or what his or her friends post. The legacy contact will not have access to the decedent’s messages nor will the contact be allowed to delete the account. Facebook users may still choose to have their entire account deleted at death.
To designate your legacy contact, go to ‘Settings’ and selected ‘Security’ and then click ‘Legacy Contact’ at the bottom of the page. From there you can designate an existing Facebook friend and give that friend permission to download an archive of your data or choose to have your account deleted at death. As with most initial policies, Facebook’s current offerings are not optimal. You must name an existing Facebook user and you can only select one legacy contact. So spouses who travel extensively together may consider naming another individual. If you do not name a legacy contact, Facebook will honor digital designations made in a traditional, legal will. For assistance with these and any other beneficiary designations, please contact our experienced estate planning attorneys.