Guest Column

Facebook feature lets you name an ‘heir’ on account

March 27, 2015
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As our lives become increasingly digital, more and more of our assets are based in technology and created online.

E-mail accounts, blogs, domain names, hosting accounts, apps, eBooks — these are all digital assets that you likely own; yet chances are you don’t have a plan for what should happen to such “assets” if you become incapacitated or pass away.

Just like physical “assets” such as bank accounts, cars and houses, digital account owners must begin making legal plans for what they want to happen to their “online real estate” if something unexpectedly happens.

One way to make wishes for digital assets known is to include instructions in a will or trust. This is especially important for digital assets that generate income such as social media accounts, blogs and domain names. Tech companies are also jumping on the bandwagon to help account owners make their wishes for digital accounts known.

One such feature garnering much attention lately is Facebook’s new “Legacy Contact” option.

This feature, rolled out last month, now allows an owner to name an “heir” of his or her profile, should they pass away. Until the creation of the Legacy Contact feature, loved ones of the deceased only had two choices regarding their Facebook page: leave it a public wall (that no one had “behind the scenes” access to) where people could continue to post messages, or request that the page be “memorialized,” which rendered the profile invisible and unsearchable to those who are not already connected with the account.

That’s all changed with the Legacy Contact feature, which now allows Facebook account owners to name who they want to manage their profile in their absence.

This designated person would immediately have access to friend requests, pictures and the management of content on the profile page. Or, for those who want their Facebook account to remain private, the Legacy Contact feature also gives users the option to request a full deletion of their account after death.

Facebook account owners can access this new feature by going into their Facebook settings. Simply choose the “Security” option and navigate to the “Legacy Contact” option at the bottom of the page.

It takes about five minutes to set up and it’s a great way to let Facebook know how you want your private social media information to be handled, should you pass away.

Shawn Eyestone is an estate planning attorney with the Grand Rapids office of Eyestone Law Offices.

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