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Tax Law Blog: Facebook Allows Users to Designate "Legacy Contact" - February 13, 2015

Access to digital assets following an individual's death continues to be a hot topic, and once again has made the news. This time, Facebook has announced a new feature called a "Legacy Contact."  Essentially, this is the equivalent of naming an executor for your Facebook account. (See a prior post for more information on the current limitations regarding access to social media after death, Google's approach, and links to a prior four-part series on digital assets.)  

The new feature allows a Facebook user to designate a "Legacy Contact" in the user's security settings that will have access to certain features in the deceased individual's account, including accepting friend requests, and updating cover photos and profile pictures.  You can also give your Legacy Contact permission to request a data archive of the user's timeline that would include posts, photos, and videos. For anyone not wanting to have their account continue, the individual can select to delete the account after death. How to make sure Facebook is notified of the user's death then becomes an issue to plan for with family members or friends. 

I anticipate this new feature will make bigger headlines in the near future, as it has been a rather soft rollout so far. If users do not use the Legacy Contact features, once Facebook finds out a user has passed, Facebook freezes the account, or in other words, memorializes the account.  This Wall Street Journal article has the best description of the features, how it works, and directions on how to designate a Legacy Contact on your own profile.