Social media (and generally online accounts) provide a new aspect to probate for executors.
The explosion of the internet means that few corners of our lives are free from online accounts of come form or other. But what about when we die? There is a decades old protocol for executors to follow as regards ‘normal’ aspects of probate (eg closing bank accounts etc). But what about the likes of our Twitter profile?
The value of social media accounts
Twitter is unlikely to be an ‘asset’ for the purposes of dealing with probate in the more general sense. Unless the deceased was an influencer, the financial value of social media accounts is nil. It is unlikely therefore to be an asset that the executors will need to put a figure to when they establish the value of the estate for the purposes of obtaining probate/paying Inheritance Tax.
Their use comes during one’s lifetime when we can take advantage of their worldwide stage for all sorts of uses. Nevertheless, rather than leaving a Twitter (and other social media accounts) in limbo, families increasingly want to know that the accounts/profile have been closed.
How to cancel a Twitter/X Profile
The current process for removing a twitter/X profile is to firstly contact the help team. They will then guide you through their process to have the profile taken down. In short this will include them:
- establishing that the deceased is indeed dead (eg provide copy death certificate)
- verifying your ID & relationship with the deceased
Can I get access to a deceased’s Twitter profile?
Twitter/X will not allow access to a profile of someone that has passed.
However, if your loved one left you log in details, then yes you can access! Other than in the event of an expected death, this is a difficult one to manage with social media and online accounts generally.
Unlike Facebook, Twitter has no provision to either pre authorise a ‘legacy contact’, nor to memorialise the profile after someone’s passing.
Can a Digital Will deal with a Twitter profile?
As more and more of us become so reliant upon the internet, the concept of a ‘digital estate’ and a ‘digital will’ come ever more into focus.
We should perhaps distinguish between ‘real assets’ (that just happen to now have online access), and our digital footprint like social media, that has no monetary value (unless the deceased was an influencer perhaps).
A good example of this is bank accounts. They are very much part of the traditional probate process, and will be dealt with by the terms of a will, and require the executors to obtain a grant of probate. The online nature of banking does not leave it something that could be dealt with by a ‘digital will’.
A digital will is generally assumed to be more inline with a ‘letter of wishes’ than a will, and is there to help the administrative process of closing down our digital footprint – in particular perhaps social media. A digital will is not legally binding. A well prepared digital will should simply give as much helpful information as possible to your chosen ‘digital executors’ so that they can deal with your social media as you would like. Inevitably, to be of any use it needs to include (a) access information, and (b) your views on what you would like to happen.
There is no requisite format or signing process to follow with a digital will (unlike a ‘real’ will). And by definition perhaps, it is something that is potentially tricky to keep on top of! For example, keeping an up to date schedule of our log in details is in itself a task! And, do we really want to be constantly updating something like that just in case we realise our mortality?
Dealing with other social media accounts
Read more about what needs to/can happen to happen by clicking on each one below:
- Facebook – they do provide facility for memorialising the profile, as well as nominating a legacy contact during your lifetime.
- Snapchat – there is no option to memorialise the profile, just close it.
- TikTok – there is no option to memorialise the profile, just close it.
- Instagram – they do provide facility for memorialising the profile.
- Pinterest – there is no option to memorialise the profile, just close it.
- YouTube – there is no opportunity to memorialise the profile.
We hope you found this guide helpful. It is not intended to be legal advice specific to your circumstances, so please do not take it (or any comments left) as such. However, our expert probate solicitors would love to hear from you if you do need legal advice around any aspect of probate. So do reach out by leaving a comment, or, you can call or email us.