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“Your story is the greatest legacy that you will leave to your friends. It’s the longest-lasting legacy you will leave to your heirs.” —Steve Saint

Maybe you’ve seen a lighthearted infographic, widely circulated on the internet, which attempts to explain social media through donuts. Minus the donut photos, it goes something like this:

Social Media Explained

Twitter – I’m eating a #donut.

Facebook – I Iike donuts.

LinkedIn – My skills include donut eating.

Pinterest – Here’s a donut recipe.

Foursquare – This is where I eat donuts.

Last FM – Now listening to “Donuts”.

Instagram – Here’s a vintage photo of my donut.

G+ – I’m a Google employee who eats donuts.

YouTube – Here I am eating a donut.

I really liked that explanation; there are so many social media sites that it’s hard to keep them all straight. But for all our social media accounts, here is a topic most of us haven’t considered: what happens to our social media presence when we’re no longer living to manage it for ourselves? I have several friends and family members who have passed, and their Facebook pages continue right along. Each year on their birthdays and the anniversary of their passing, friends post greetings to them. I think it brings comfort to have that symbolic contact with someone they cared about. But, what are the legalities and policies that govern your cyber presence after your death? I’ve never seen a section in someone’s will transferring ownership of their online presence.

Many of the most popular sites have guidelines in place to allow you to pick a “legacy contact”, a close friend or relative who can have limited access to your account.

Facebook recommends using a group page as a memorial, rather than a personal profile. However, to choose a legacy contact on Facebook, go to Settings on your home page, select Security, and then select Legacy Contact.  The wording from Facebook reads, “A legacy contact is someone you choose to manage your account after you pass away. They’ll be able to do things like pin a post on your Timeline, respond to new friend requests and update your profile picture.” However, you may also choose to have your account deleted after your death.

Google allows you to set a time limit for your accounts to be inactive before they send your chosen contact person a message (which you prepare in advance, letting them know you have chosen them as your Inactive Account Manager). You can also instruct Google to delete your accounts. To choose a person to manage your inactive accounts, go to myaccount.google.com/inactive. Click on the Setup menu and follow the directions. You can choose up to 10 trusted friends or family members.

Instagram allows your account to be memorialized, but locks it. Their website explains it this way: “We’ll memorialize the Instagram account of a deceased person when we receive a valid request. We try to prevent references to memorialized accounts from appearing on Instagram in ways that may be upsetting to the person’s friends and family, and we also take measures to protect the privacy of the deceased person by securing the account.” Instagram also allows a family member to request the account be deleted, but requires birth and death certificates, as well as proof that the family member is the lawful representative of the estate.

Twitter has a process to allow an authorized person to deactivate an account. They require several pieces of information to process the request.  They also have a policy in place to allow the removal of certain images which could be upsetting to family members.

Many people store passwords securely through LastPass, which has a process for emergency access. The website describes it this way, “With the Emergency Access feature, you can give trusted family and friends access to your LastPass account in the event of an emergency or crisis… Emergency Access can also be used as an alternative account recovery feature, if you worry about ever forgetting your master password and want to ensure you have a backup way of recovering your vault.”

With a little pre-planning, you can decide what happens to your social media accounts before you can no longer tweet, check-in, post, share, or change your status.  It’s just one more area of our lives that technology has effected, and one we need to be cognizant of.

We’d be happy to talk with any of you about this. Please feel free to share this article with anyone you feel would benefit from the information.


Special thanks to our own Kim Spencer, CFP®, CDFA®, for researching and writing this month’s Monthly Insight.  We hope you’ve found it to be educational and helpful. Thank you very much for the trust and confidence you’ve placed in our firm. We cherish our relationships with our clients. If you know of someone who would benefit from our advice and services, we would welcome an introduction.

DISCLOSURES: The information provided in this letter is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product, and should not be construed as investment, legal, or tax advice. The Nalls Sherbakoff Group, LLC makes no warranties with regard to the information or results obtained by third parties and its use and disclaim any liability arising out of, or reliance on the information. These indexes reflect investments for a limited period of time and do not reflect performance in different economic or market cycles and are not intended to reflect the actual outcomes of any client of The Nalls Sherbakoff Group, LLC. Past performance does not guarantee future results.