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What happens to my social media accounts after I die?

Though many social media sites seem to be aimed at tweens, teenagers and young adults, people of all ages enjoy services like Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter and Instagram. One survey estimates that 88 percent of Americans aged 50 to 64 are online in some form. Many of them upload photographs and personal data like bank account information, in the hope that this data is secure online.

This raises the question of what happens to our social media accounts after we pass away. Florida has no language in its probate laws addressing this issue. In fact, only eight states have passed laws dealing with social media as personal property for probate purposes. Social media companies have differing policies about deceased people’s accounts, but those rules may not match up with your wishes.

As a result, after someone dies, their family may not be able to access their accounts. This could have financial as well as personal implications, such as if the deceased had an online business that used PayPal or a similar service.

Dorothy Hukill, a Florida state senator from Port Orange, plans to file a bill during the next legislative session to address this problem. She hopes to grant permission to the decedent’s designated fiduciary or personal representative to access his or her digital assets.

This is an interesting example of how the law sometimes struggles to adapt to changing technology. People can make provisions for the disposal of their online property in their estate plan, though the companies behind those sites may resist, based on their terms of service requirements.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, “Florida lawmaker addresses digital life after death,” Kate Santich, Oct. 25, 2014

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