Social media and your will

Legal people urge YOU to leave social media details including Facebook passwords in their wills alongside family heirlooms, savings and house deeds

  • The move stops distressing comments being left which family cannot delete
  • It also prevents bills mounting up for groceries and electricity accounts
  • People should keep passwords in a separate document for executors 
  • But songs and ebooks cannot be inherited – the rights end when you die

It has long been the place for odd demands, antique jewellery and donations to the local charities.

But the Last Will and Testament should now contain something much more fitting for the 21st century, say lawyers – your Facebook account details.

Experts say handing passwords to executors could stop distressing or abusive comments being left on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Instagram, where they are hard for relatives to delete quickly.

Digital age: The paperwork attached to your will should now include social media passwords, say experts

A password dossier could also stop bills mounting up for a dead person’s online shopping, electricity or gas accounts – many of which can only be managed online and might have credit which can be claimed by relatives.

And leaving clear instructions about what to do with accounts after death could cut short the painful process of having to unravel a person’s complex online life.

One of the most crucial items on the list is a person’s e-mail account – which often holds the key to unlocking the rest of a relative’s world.

Death: Having passwords and clear instructions can cut through the fine print of proving a person’s death

Families find it harder to remove upsetting or derogatory comments about a deceased loved one if they do not have immediate access to the person’s account.

Friends can continue to post on social media profiles, often unaware a person has died – and until a Facebook account is ‘memorialised’, users are reminded of their loved one’s birthday every year.

‘It’s made more difficult because there is no standard procedure across the internet for what happens when an account user dies.’

Facebook and Twitter are both based in the U.S., creating a debate over whether Australian or American laws should be used.

Then there is a far more simple problem – most people have so many online accounts that their relatives have no idea what they all are.

The easiest way to cut through that is to simply have a list of passwords.

It is recommended keeping a separate dossier of usernames, e-mail addresses and passwords which can be handed to executors as part of the bundle of documents attached to a person’s will.

However, passwords should not be included in the will itself, because its contents are made public after it


Hotmail: Closes accounts and does not provide passwords, but can ship the contents to a person’s next of kin on a data DVD.

Gmail: Closes accounts without providing any emails, citing need to keep information private even in death

Twitter: Closes accounts at the request of family members and can make a backup of tweets for posterity

Facebook and Instagram: Closes or ‘memorialises’ accounts so certain features, like birthday reminders, no longer appear

The Hotmail e-mail service, for example, will not pass account passwords to relatives or keep an account open, but can ship the contents to a person’s next of kin on a data DVD.

Google is more tight-lipped – it will close accounts but not provided any of the information within them, saying: ‘Our primary responsibility is to keep our users’ information secure, safe, and private’.

With Twitter, things are simple. Family members must provide the site’s administrators with proof of a loved one’s death, such as a death certificate or obituary, and the account will be shut down.
If people want, they can receive a backup of their relatives’ tweets for posterity.

With Linkedin- go to “Death of a Linkedin member” on the Linkedin site and follow prompts

Facebook and Instagram also allow verified immediate family members to ‘memorialise’ a loved one’s account if they provide proof of death.



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