The Digital Afterlife - Social Media

      By Nicole Pearce

      Social media is a huge aspect of our day to day lives. From Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Tumblr, WhatsApp – the list goes on and on. Whilst making a social media account can all be done with the click of a button (and more often than not without spending a cent), the cost of dealing with social media on death can cost your estate a hefty legal bill if you haven’t put a plan into place about what happens to your social media accounts on your death. There has been a string of recent litigation trying to untangle the complex issues about ownership of social media accounts and the content of the account on death.

      So what really happens to your social media account when you pass away? We have picked the top three social media platforms and given a run down on what happens to your account on death.


      When you sign up to Facebook’s terms and conditions, you accept that your account cannot be transferred or assigned to any other person without the consent of Facebook.

      In recent changes, Facebook now allows you to nominate a “legacy contact”. This nominated person will be able to post on your Facebook page after your death to announce things such as funeral arrangements. The legacy contact cannot view your private messages, or log in as you, but can access your photos, respond to friend requests and update your profile picture.

      You can nominate a legacy contact in the security settings of your Facebook account. You should also reinforce that nomination in your Will by giving express consent to that person to have access to your Facebook account upon death. You can also give your legacy contact or nominated person in your Will authority to download a copy of your Facebook data.

      When Facebook has been notified of a death, the deceased account holders Facebook page will transition into ‘memorial mode’. The legacy contact only comes into effect on death. You should also consider what happens to your account on incapacity. This is something that can be considered and recorded in a properly drafted enduring power of attorney.  


      Much like Facebook (which is now Instagram’s parent company), Instagram’s terms and conditions state that a deceased person’s account cannot be transferred to any other person.  Unlike Facebook however, Instagram does not have the feature to elect a legacy contact in the settings of the app. If you want to ensure that someone is able to access your account in any fashion after you death, you must include a direction to that effect in your Will.

      Instagram accounts can also be memorialised (or removed altogether by an immediate family member of the deceased account holder).

      A point to note for accounts with a hefty following who plan to sell the account in the future - Instagram’s terms and conditions expressly prevent users from buying, selling or transferring any aspect of their account (whilst living or after death).


      In Australia, Snapchat’s Terms of Service state that a person retains ownership of their account and all of the content that they create, upload, post, send, receive and store. Snapchat does allow (only with the consent of Snapchat) an account to be transferred to another person. A way to effect that transfer would be to gift your interest in the Snapchat account to another person in your Will, on the basis that such gift and resulting transfer is approved by Snapchat.

      If you’d like to discuss the control of your social media accounts on death or incapacity, contact our office to arrange an appointment with one of our estate planners. Keep an eye out for part 2 of the Digital Afterlife which deals with Cryptocurrency!


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