What Happens to My Online Accounts After I Die?
By Emily Martin, Esq.
In today’s world, many people connect with friends and family via social media more than they do in “real life.” Additionally, online shopping has expanded vastly in the past several years, and most people have several online accounts they use regularly. While the Internet has allowed us to have more connections and to conduct business from the convenience of our home, there is often a concern about what will happen to these accounts after the owner dies. Of course, no one wants their online banking or shopping accounts to be used after they die. Additionally, most people would not want their social media accounts to go on as usual, but many people may wish to keep their page available to friends and family who wish to remember them in a special way.
Facebook has a feature that allows account holders to choose a Facebook friend to be a “legacy contact.” While your legacy contact cannot actually log into your account, change or delete past posts, or remove friends and read messages, this person will have the ability to post information on your behalf, respond to new friend requests, and update your profile picture. In order to turn over access to a legacy contact, the page must first be memorialized, meaning that the legacy contact must prove that the person has died by sending a death certificate or obituary. When you designate your legacy contact, you can direct that your account be deleted upon your death or that it be preserved as a place where loved ones can share memories about you. Similarly, Instagram will also allow an account to be memorialized.
While Twitter will not give anyone else access to your account after you pass away, it will accept requests to deactivate the user’s account from either an immediate family member or the executor of your estate.
Additionally, Google allows people to assign beneficiaries of their Google accounts. If you fail to log into Gmail, Google Maps, GoogleDrive, YouTube, or other Google apps for a set amount of time (between three and 18 months), the Inactive Account Manager will send you a text message and an email. If you don’t respond, Google will send your data to a trusted contact, who will then be directed to delete your account or manage your Google services as you have directed.
On the other hand, Yahoo will not grant access to a deceased user’s account without a specific request letter from the personal representative of their estate. The same is true of PayPal, which has a quite complicated process required to close a user’s PayPal account.
In this age, technology and social media are often our main means of communication. It is important to make sure you know what will happen to your online accounts after you pass away. If you have an estate plan in place, it is a good idea to include with your original estate planning documents a listing of all of your online accounts and what your username and password is for those accounts. This will allow your loved ones to be able to manage those accounts for you if you become incapacitated or pass away. If you use specific accounts, be sure to find out what actions are available to your loved ones after you pass away.
Ask Kit Kat: Lone Wolf
Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, what can you tell us about the wolf who lives at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, VA?
Kit Kat: Well, the male wolf who inhabits the Virginia Living Museum (VLM) in Newport News, VA is a red wolf who is 12 years old. Until a few weeks ago, he had a female red wolf companion who was 11 years old. Unfortunately, she died, and he is now alone. Their species is endangered, and there are only a few hundred left. They are protected under the federal red wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP). Red wolves are the only wolf species native to the southeastern United States. They have a short coat, and are smaller than other wolf species. At present, their range is limited to Albemarle Peninsula in North Carolina. It is hard to re-introduce them to the wild, because people mistake them for coyotes, and sometimes they are considered a nuisance.
The male red wolf was born at the museum in Newport News in April 2007. He was one of 6 pups and was known as the most submissive in the litter. That is probably why he bonded so well with his female companion. His mother and siblings were eventually moved to other SSP facilities. His father remained with him until his death in January 2019. Not wanting him to be alone, VLM located a female for him from Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida, and she arrived in the spring (2019). They got along well, and they even dug a den together. However, it was evident from the start that she had health issues—digenerative disc disease in her lower back. In late September (2019), she suddenly declined, and had to be put down. VLM is now looking for another female for their male. At his age, he is unlikely to father any pups, but VLM doesn’t want him to be alone for his remaining years. Red wolves are social creatures, and like to live with others of their kind. Let’s hope VLM finds him a companion very soon. (Matt Jones, “A lone wolf once more,” The Virginian-Pilot, October 11, 2019, p 1 & 4)