As of 2021, there were approximately 48.5 million Facebook users and 20.1 million Snapchat users in the UK. Millions of us also use Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and TikTok. The use of social media sites in the UK will only increase in the coming years.
As more of us move towards the digital world, it is important to consider what will happen to our digital assets when we pass away. Whilst these assets may not have monetary value, the sentimental value for our family and friends cannot be understated. Family and friends may find great comfort in being able to look at our social media accounts to help them remember and reflect upon what they have lost.
As your social media accounts and online presence can live on long after you are gone, ensuring that you leave clear provisions for how you would want your social media accounts dealt with has never been more important. Where no such provision is given, the Executor’s (the person responsible for dealing with a person’s estate when they pass away) role becomes more complex. The executor has to consider and navigate the ever-growing world of social media themselves when administering an estate.
Most social media sites will keep the account open indefinitely. Whilst this may provide your loved ones with memories they might otherwise not have a record of, this also leaves the account open to hackers in search of inactive social media accounts. Hackers are drawn to inactive social media accounts as there is less chance of being caught than with an active account.
Another option for your social media accounts is to delete them. All social media sites have different systems and procedures for the account to be removed. Your Executor will most likely need basic information regarding the account (full name held on the account, username and email address), proof of their relationship to you, and your Death Certificate. Due to the volume of users, it may take some time for your accounts to be deleted. Once deleted, all the valuable memories held in the account will disappear with it.
Most social media platforms have a function to memorialise social media accounts. The social media site edits the account to make it clear that you are deceased by changing the way the account works and how it is presented. By memorialising an account, it is made more private so that only your friends and family can view it.
Unless you specify what you want to happen with your social media accounts, your family will be left in the dark and your Executor will have to make these decisions without your input. To prevent this, it is important to consider your use of social media when having a Will drafted. By leaving clear instructions for your Executor it will mean there is no need for them to make the tough decision about what to do with your digital legacies. Providing your family or solicitor with a list of your social media accounts and a note of your log in details will allow them to access the account to carry out your wishes after you have passed away.
As the world of social media and digital assets develops, it is important that the legal world and estate planning evolve to account for this change. If you are looking to seek legal advice contact our friendly and experienced Estate Planning Department on 0141 736 0025 or via the online.
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