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Facebook Change: Revise Digital Estate Plan

Posted on: March 20th, 2014
digital estate planningIndividuals can address their digital assets in their estate plan to designate how assets are used or disposed of upon their death. These wishes may face challenges with certain digital assets as every digital service and asset holder has specific terms in their user agreements that present unique prohibitions—which is why it is important to address assets and their unique platforms in a digital estate plan.

Facebook, one of the world’s most popular social networking platforms, provided certain services to family members of deceased users. The social media giant recently changed the terms of these services. 

In the past, surviving family members could contact Facebook and notify them of their loved one’s death. The decedent’s profile would turn into a memorial page featuring “In Memory of ___” and offered the user’s timeline history, photos, and more as a memorial for friends. Friends had the ability of leaving tribute messages on the decedent’s timeline.

The change? Now Facebook believes they will better serve the wishes of their users by activating a memorial page under the same privacy restrictions the user had active at the time of their death. Before, all friends had equal access to the decedent’s profile. Now, friends will remain under the same privacy restrictions set by the user.

As part of Facebook’s recent 10-year anniversary, a “Look Back” video was customized and created for each user. Facebook accessed users’ photos to generate a slideshow of memorable moments. The features was met with debate as Facebook disregarded privacy settings and included photos that may have been under restrictions. Just a few short weeks later, an ‘edit’ feature was added so that users can create their own slideshow.

The change? As part of a memorial page, Facebook will create a “Look Back” video for deceased users. Now surviving family members can access a one-minute slideshow tribute chronicling the decedent’s life. 

If individuals do not wish their Facebook profiles be maintained indefinitely under the active user agreement (or be subject to the effects of future agreement amendments), they should consult with an estate planning attorney who is familiar with planning for digital assets. Some Facebook users may not want others to access, feature, or share a “Look Back” video that they themselves have not approved. It remains to be seen if Facebook will offer users the ability to create their own memorial page or tribute slideshow. Before additional changes take place, update your digital estate plan if Facebook terms fail to meet your wishes.
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