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Estate Planning for your Online Afterlife – Important Changes to Facebook

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You can now change your Facebook settings to state what happens when you die!

Estate planning is important for your online assets too. Digital assets such as a Facebook account often have significant sentimental value for your loved ones when you die. There can be painful consequences for your loved ones if you do not ensure your digital estate is managed appropriately when you die.

More often than not when someone passes away that person’s Facebook page becomes a memorial containing pictures, messages and other experiences during that person’s lifetime. Recently, the family of a Brisbane man who died suddenly became outraged when they discovered his Facebook account was deactivated. His six children were deprived of the ability to continue to have access to precious memories by retaining access to his Facebook account.

As of 13 May 2015 Australian Facebook users can decide whether their Facebook account will continue to exist after they die and if the account continues to exist, who will manage the account.

As part of a new measure to allow continued access to Facebook accounts after death, Facebook has developed a memorialisation process to ensure family and friends have continued access to the profile of their loved ones.

The new feature allows a Facebook user to appoint a family member or friend who can manage their account when they pass away, referred to as a “Legacy Contact”.

Once Facebook is notified of the death of a user, the appointed Legacy Contact is able to:

  • Write a post to display at the top of the memorialised Timeline (for example, to announce a memorial service or share a special message)
  • Respond to new friend requests from family members and friends who were not yet connected on Facebook
  • Update the profile picture and cover photo

The account holder also has the option to allow the Legacy Contact permission to download an archive of the photos, posts and profile information shared on Facebook.

Alternatively, the account holder may simply notify Facebook that they’d prefer to have their Facebook account permanently deleted after death.

To add a legacy contact:

  1. Click  in the top right of Facebook and select Settings
  2. In the left menu, click Security
  3. Click Legacy Contact
  4. Type in a friend’s name and click Add
  5. Click Message to let your friend know they’re now your legacy contact

Attwood Marshall Lawyers have a dedicated team of Wills & Estates lawyers that specialise in estate planning and estate litigation. Contact 1800 621 071.

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Lucy McPherson

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