Digital assets are a relatively new area to consider when determining how to distribute your assets after death. Social media accounts are considered a digital asset, even though often the content posted by the deceased belongs to the provider, not the former user. There is a growing desire by family and friends to turn Facebook pages into memorials for the deceased where people can share their memories. However, if the deceased hasn’t shared his user information and password, there may be no way to access that information. Further, social media companies, such as Facebook, can choose whether to allow or deny someone other than to decedent to access the deceased’s account.
Some states have attempted to pass legislature to allow access to a deceased’s social media accounts, such as Oklahoma, Virginia, Maryland and now New Hampshire. Recently, a bill was introduced to the New Hampshire House of Representatives , HB116. That bill proposed the following:
“The executor or administrator of an estate shall have the power, where otherwise authorized, to take control of, conduct, continue, or terminate any accounts of a deceased person on any social networking website, any microblogging or short message service website, or any e-mail service website.”
The bill has since been tabled. It may appear to be a good idea to allow your executor or an administrator of your estate to access your social media account, but there are many important issues to consider. One major consideration is privacy of the deceased. If the deceased did not share his account information and password, then perhaps he never intended for anyone to access his personal information. During his lifetime, the deceased was able to limit access to the content of his social media pages, and the executor or administrator of his estate may choose to share information with people the deceased never intended to share information with, or to terminate an account that the deceased would have preferred to become a memorial.
It is unknown if the New Hampshire House will further consider this bill or a similar bill. As a result, it is important to contemplate whether you want to share your social media information and passwords with someone you trust and to express your wishes in regard to your digital assets.
Attorney Peters practices in the area of estate planning and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (603) 883-0797 extension 523.