Social media wills protect dead accounts - FOX Carolina 21

Social media wills protect dead accounts

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GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

People love social networking - it's the new frontier.  

And this might be difficult to think about, but if you die, you leave a mark on the social media landscape that can't easily be erased.

"I think Facebook is real close to having a billion members," says attorney Grant Varner. "I think the average is 1.5 million Facebook users die each year. That's 1.5 million abandoned accounts."

But there are an increasing number of people that are trying to make their wishes known in the form of social media wills.  It would essentially put an executor in charge of the future of their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, email and any other social media they may have.

While the subject may be morbid, Sociologist Clif Flynn at USC Upstate says, simply, "My mother is 80, is on Facebook, so this isn't something that's happening with teens and 20-somethings."

Flynn says even the idea of a social media will shows how much of shift there is in the culture, towards how people want to be remembered digitally.

"Before we would have a shoe box, crates, things in the attic," says Flynn.  "Now our property is digital and we still have to come up with a way to handle it after we're gone."

But there is a problem.

Flynn says only five states (Connecticut, Oklahoma, Idaho, Rhode Island and Indiana) have any type of laws which allow an executor to manage a deceased person's social media account.  Facebook also has an "If I Die" app, allowing a user to set executors for their social media afterlife, but it only allows for limited access.

"There needs to be something in state law that would allow executors to manage these accounts," Varner says, adding that one simply can't put a username and password into a will, as the legal document will become public record once the person dies.

For now, Varner recommends that those with a will attach a card or note with password information.  The will may be public record, but the piece of paper that has that sensitive information will not be included in the legal document.

Copyright 2012 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All Rights Reserved.

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