What is a Social Media Will?

Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP

A government publication called the Consumer Action Handbook refers to the preparation of a social media will. Many people have online accounts of various types. What happens to them when you die? The owners of the online services may deny family members access to these accounts. What right do family members have to take over or dismantle online accounts of decedents?

The publication suggests the preparation of a social media will, or statement of what should be done at death. Someone can be appointed, pursuant to that will, to close down e-mail addresses, social media profiles and other accounts, such as blogs or twitter. You could, in such a will, authorize the immediate cancellation of all such accounts, or keep them in effect for a while to allow final visits. Whoever is so appointed should be given a list of websites where the individual has accounts, together with user names and passwords. There is a well-known story of Leonard Bernstein, who wrote his memoirs on a password-protected site, but neglected to tell anyone the password, with the result that no one has ever been able to access the memoirs.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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