Berman & Asbel, LLP

How to Handle a Decedent's Social Media Accounts After Death

Pennsylvania residents know there are lots of loose ends that need to be tied up after a loved one dies. For example, friends and family need to be notified, funeral arrangements have to be made and wills need to be consulted. However, many people forget to deal with an individual's social media accounts after he or she passes away, which can lead to awkward birthday notifications and other uncomfortable post-death online interactions.

First of all, the decedent's executor or personal representative should not simply log in to a decedent's account to close it or make a death announcement, as this may violate federal law. All social media sites have protocols for dealing with a platform user's death. Representatives are encouraged to consult each site's terms of service to find out what is required to manage a deceased person's account. For example, Facebook allows people to either delete or memorialize a loved one's account after submitting a death certificate. Meanwhile, Twitter requires a fiduciary to present a death certificate and their own ID to close a deceased user's account.

Fiduciaries should be careful and respectful when announcing a death or funeral details online. All close family members and friends should be told of the death by phone before anything is posted online. Once that is done, it is appropriate to notify acquaintances and co-workers through a social media post.

Individuals interested in drawing up an estate plan may wish to use the services of an estate planning attorney. One thing that may also be important is to provide the executor with a list of all social media accounts and related information prior to death.

Source: CNET, "How to manage a loved one's social media afterlife", Erin Carson, April 18, 2017

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