Probate – What happens to social media when you die?

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Social media what happens when we die...??

Our every growing online footprint is something ‘new’ for our personal representatives to deal with. 

The simple answer is that our social media presence will stay in situ unless our personal representatives take action.  And, subject to the policies of the particular platforms concerned, it is likely that an inactive account will, in time, be removed in any event.  But what if you’d like to be more organised with your online footprint?

For most of us, there will be little (if any) monetary value in our social media accounts/profiles when we die.  But, what to do with it?  Here, we take a look at what can be done both before and after our passing to deal with our ‘digital estate’.

What is a Digital Estate?

The phrase ‘digital estate’ seems to have been coined (and now used) to describe our online footprint – ie those accounts and profiles we hold online to consume ‘content’, and to communicate with others.  It includes not just social media, but also productivity platforms (Apple/Microsoft/Google), and personal interest apps eg health and wellness.

Although it is true that for most of us our digital estate will have no monetary value, for some, it has proven to be the source of great wealth.  For the purposes of this article we are focusing on those for whom a digital estate is of no financial value.

> Read more about digital estates

What can I do with my Digital Estate?

The majority of our digital estate will simply need to be closed down.  Some platforms (eg LinkedIn and Facebook) allow our profiles to be ‘memorialised’.

Most providers do not allow any ‘pre authorisation’ of someone to deal with things for you in the event of your passing.  Apple and Facebook are notable exceptions in that they allow a ‘legacy contact’ to be nominated giving that specified person the authority to liaise with the provider following our passing.

Where there is no ‘legacy contact’, your loved ones have one of two routes to take:

  • Digital will – you provide them with login credentials to all accounts
  • Contact each provider – they contact each provider after your passing

What is a Digital Will?

A digital will is not something set in law, nor is it (therefore) legally binding on anyone.  Think of it as a cross between a traditional letter of wishes, and an inventory of your social media/online footprint (including login credentials).

This allows your personal representatives to simply login to each account following your passing and delete it (rather than contact each provider).  This reduces the amount of work needed if they have to (as the alternative) contact each provider – when they would also have to go through each platforms protocol to prove your passing, prove their identity, and prove that they have the authority to instruct them to close down your account.

> Read more about digital wills

What to do with each social media platform?

This is what can currently be done with each social media platform.  You can click on the platform name below to take you to a more detailed article on each one:

  • Facebook – this can be memorialised and or closed down. You can also have a legacy contact
  • X (Twitter) – there is no facility to memorialise or pre appoint a legacy contact
  • TikTok – there is no facility to memorialise or pre appoint a legacy contact
  • Snapchat – there is no facility to memorialise or pre appoint a legacy contact
  • Instagram – this can be memorialised and or closed down.
  • YouTube – there is no facility to memorialise or pre appoint a legacy contact
  • LinkedIn – like Facebook, this can be memorialised

Is a Digital Will the same as a normal Will?

No!  They are two totally different/separate things.  A will is set in law (since the Wills Act 1837) to deal with our assets and liabilities.  A will follows the process of estate administration (sometimes called probate) and nominates those people/persons who will have the authority to deal with that administration (our executors).

A digital will is designed to help our loved ones deal with our digital estate by providing helpful information giving access to our various social media and other online accounts/profiles. If anything, a digital will is more akin to a letter of wishes.

Free Legal Guide

We hope you have found this guide helpful.  Check out the rest of our site where you’ll find hundreds of other free legal guides on everything from employment law, to moving house, to powers of attorney.  Do remember our guides are just that – generic guides.  They are NOT intended to be legal advice specific to you.  But, that’s where our expert solicitors come in!  If you would like advice, do reach out by either leaving a comment below, calling, or emailing us.  Meantime, a big thank you for visiting QLAW – the home of all things legal….!

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