By Annalyse Betts and Kerin Cotchett
In 2020 most people use social media to communicate with friends and family or to share aspects of their life. This is even more relevant under the circumstances of COVID-19.
However, this may raise the question, what happens to all those videos, photos, private messages, status updates and memories after I am gone? What happens to my social media after I pass away?
When someone passes away it is often the responsibility of the family or executor of the estate to decide what should happen to an individual’s social media accounts. If the person who has passed away has kept their usernames and passwords private, this can be a daunting task.
On most platforms there are three (3) options:
- Close/Remove the account;
Most platforms have a simple online request form which can be completed by the next of kin or executor which notes that someone has passed away. Once, the request for a deceased person’s account is registered, the platform will begin its internal process of closing and removing the accounts.
- Memorialise the account; and
Alternatively, the next of kin or executor may choose to memorialise the account which will reflect that the person who operated the account is now deceased, but will still show posts, memories and photos.
When an account is memorialised, extra security measures are normally taken by the platform to ensure the privacy of the deceased and their family.
Each platform has a unique process on how to lodge the memorialisation request, but normally it is a simple online form, like the closing request for a deceased person’s account.
- Leave the account to be taken down due to inactivity.
Finally, you may decide to leave the account and allow the online platform to remove the account due to inactivity. We advise that you do not engage in this option as the account may not be removed for a significant period of time and depending on the privacy settings of the account, the data on the account may remain available to the public for a significant period.
Unless you are very unwell, it is impossible to predict when you may pass. This makes it difficult for you to get your affairs, other than your Will (such as your social media), in order for the ease of your executors.
We recommend the following:
- Keep a list of all social media platforms you use, include things like emails, professional profiles (such as LinkedIn) and leisure accounts (such as Facebook and Instagram).
- Often, our account statements, Super membership numbers and various other details containing our assets are held online and provided through email or virtual statements. If you are someone who does hold most of this information online, it may be beneficial for your executor to keep a list of your asset holders alongside your Will if they cannot gain access to your social media.
However, we note that keeping lists like this can mean that you are regularly updating them. This is something important to consider when arranging your affairs.