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Online Presence After Death
September 9, 2021

With so many of us now using a range of social media and regularly transacting business via the internet, what happens to our online presence after death?

More and more we use social media not simply to interact with family,  friends  and others, but to store treasured memories, such as photographs, records of activity etc. So what happens to these accounts when someone dies, and who owns the information?

Well the short answer is – it’s complicated! To begin with, the whole issue of ownership is not at all clear cut, with experts describing the area as a legal minefield. Whilst online providers may cover such issues in their terms and conditions, the reality is most people do not read these or consider the implications until they are in a situation where they become relevant. There are increasing numbers of disputes between family members and service providers, and a lack of consistency in how digital assets are passed on to heirs.

In some instances, social media providers ‘memorialise’ an individual’s account when they die (for example Facebook). This removes the page from public view but allows friends and family to continue posting to the account. In other cases the account may simply be deleted. This can result not only in the loss of sentimental material, but other digital assets, some of which have a real monetary value, such as music, films, email accounts, computer game characters, domain names, air miles, reward points, PayPal and Bitcoin accounts.

The best advice available at the moment is to formally designate someone to take responsibility for your online presence after death. They will need a list of accounts and passwords but there are providers who can assist with this (for example Legacy Locker). Definitely something to consider as a way to make things easier for those you leave behind.