The Nebraska State Legislature has introduced prospective legislation that would require Facebook, the popular social media website, to grant account access to the executor of a deceased Facebook account user. While this appears to be the first legislation directly aimed at granting Facebook access to an executor of an estate, the role of social media in a deceased person’s estate is likely to grow over the coming years.
Facebook’s policy with regard to deceased account holders is to create a memorial profile of the deceased individual upon the receipt of reliable information from a family member that the account holder is deceased. At that point, “friends” may still post on the deceased’s page but no one can log-on to the account. The proposed law would cover other social media, micro-blogging sites or e-mail accounts as well. Given the fact that there is a substantial amount of money that can be made through social media, blogging and other electronic media without ever actually selling a product, it is no surprise that questions are beginning to surface revolving around whether these are considered “assets” for estate purposes.
Along with any potential financial interest in social media, there are likely personal reasons why an executor may wish access to a social media site such as Facebook. Simply being able to write your own memorial for the deceased, or respond to e-mails from friends and family sent to the deceased’s e-mail account, may be reason enough to pursue legislation such as that introduced in Nebraska.