While users of social media such as Facebook and Twitter tend to be slightly younger than those who routinely seek out the advice of an estate planning attorney, the issue of what happens to your social media accounts after you die is not a new one. However, this issue is currently not directly addressed by any state laws, and a new bill in Nebraska would make the state the first to adopt such legislation that directly addresses who has authority over a deceased person’s social media accounts.
The bill was introduced by a state senator at the urging of the Nebraska State Bar Association. It allows a personal representative, also known as an executor, the right to access and control a person’s e-mail accounts, social media accounts and micro-blogging accounts after a person dies. Currently, these accounts are dealt with differently depending on the company involved.
For example, Facebook has a procedure that memorializes a deceased person’s account once the company learns that person has died. A memorialized account can not be accessed by anyone other than Facebook, which also allows the company to adjust the privacy settings. However, a memorialized account cannot add new friends or followers, though friends can still post messages on the deceased person’s wall.
If the legislation passes it will represent the first law that directly addresses digital estate planning concerns, and would take effect in 2013. Though there does not appear to be similar legislation pending in other states, this law may represent the first of numerous such laws to follow.