Who inherits your Facebook account when you die?
By Maplebrook Wills
22nd Mar '19
Legacy Planning, Wills
When the sad day comes that you’re no longer able to share, like and comment on your friends’ Facebook posts, what happens to your account?
In the UK, it depends more on your Facebook settings than what you write in your will. Although it’s possible this may change as a result of a recent legal ruling in Germany.
Currently, your Facebook account can live on in the form of a ‘memorialized account’. This allows friends and family to continue sharing their recollections of you, which they can do once Facebook has been supplied with proof of death.
However, your memorialized account will essentially be frozen unless you previously specified a ‘legacy contact’. This person can manage your account in a limited way – responding to new friend requests, updating the profile picture and writing a pinned message.
If you don’t like the idea of a memorialized account, you can change your settings so that your account is deleted permanently once Facebook has been notified of your death.
A legacy contact can also download a restricted set of data from your account. This includes wall posts, your friends list and the photos and videos you uploaded.
But what about the rest – the messages and other data associated with your account? Could you leave all of this data to a friend or relative in your will?
Well, you could try but it seems unlikely that Facebook – or any other social media platform, for that matter – would comply. That’s because you’re essentially granted a licence to use these services when you sign up. That’s a licence that involves complying with the site’s terms and conditions.
Taking it to court
In Germany, however, a court ruled recently that the heirs of the deceased have the right to access the full Facebook accounts of deceased relatives.
According to a report by Reuters, the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe ruled that the mother of a 15-year-old girl could gain access to her late daughter’s account.
In effect, the court’s verdict means that in Germany, social media accounts are to be treated just like written letters. In other words, they can be inherited.
Facebook reportedly said it “respectfully disagreed” with the decision. While it’s easy to sympathise with the mother’s intentions, there’s a compelling counter-argument.
Social media platforms have a moral duty to protect users’ privacy. After all, you may not be comfortable with family members reading your private messages, even after you’re gone.
In summary, there’s nothing stopping you from leaving all your social media data to family members in your will. But that doesn’t mean they’ll get it. It could well end up as a costly court battle with a technology giant, with no guarantee of success.
Writing a will
On the other hand, writing a will can guarantee that all of your other assets – whether money or property – go to the people you really care about.
You don’t even need to use a solicitor. Professional will writers provide exactly the same service at a fraction of the cost.
At Maplebrook Wills, we’ll visit your home to discuss your will at a time that suits you. We don’t maintain expensive high street premises so we’re a fraction of the cost of high street solicitors. And that’s got to be worth ‘Liking’.