Social Media and Estate Administration

Mar 1, 2012

Nebraska has recently introduced legislation that may be the first of its kind in the country aimed at allowing the executor of an estate access to social media accounts of a decedent. If passed, the legislation will give the executor of an estate the right to access and control accounts for sites such as Facebook or Twitter, as well as e-mail accounts and micro-blogs, that were held by the decedent.

At the present time, what happens to a social media account when a person dies is largely up to the policy of the site administrators. Facebook, for example, creates a memorial tribute on the account holder’s page when notified by family members of the death of the account holder. According to the Facebook policy, “friends” of the deceased may continue to post comments on the decedent’s wall, but no one can log-on to the account, post status updates, or make any other changes to the account. If the Nebraska legislation passes, the executor of the decedent’s estate will be allowed to do so in the future. The same concept applies to other social media, e-mail and micro-blog accounts.

The proposed legislation highlights how the concept of “assets” has drastically changed in lieu of the increased reliance on digital media and communication. As technology changes, changes are required to keep up. Most of us would not have even considered the need to include plans for e-mail accounts or social media accounts in our estate plan ten years ago; however, as the proposed legislation points out, we may all wish to do so now.

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