Death and Social Networking

So, what should happen to a person’s social networking and internet presence when they die.

The physical property that goes to make up the deceased person’s estate can be distributed by the executors according to the will, or to next of kin, or however the law lays down.
However where does that leave your social networking presence, what about your Facebook page or YouTube account. A few years ago these sites could have just been seen as a transitory ‘bit of fun’ and of no great importance, however now some of them can generate considerable income and have a substantial value. Or what about sites and accounts where¬†harassment¬†or bullying has been involved.


If you have a domain / web site that is registered in your name, then it is yours; but for most social media sites you just have a license to use the site, and whose terms and conditions (legally enforceable) often prohibit transfer to a different user. So on the death of the original user who, if anyone, has the rights to the account, or who has the rights to order the provider to close the account. How do you ‘value’ an account (especially if it was generating income) where there may be a tax liability against the deceased estate.
What about downloaded software and / or music. Sometimes you may be buying the product outright, but many other times you’re buying a license to use the product. You can pass on the physical Kindle book reader, but what about the books!


With privacy laws on individual accounts being fairly strict, social network providers will be reluctant to give out passwords, while if the original account holder gave passwords to others then there is a breach of terms and conditions, and if somebody else uses them then they may be in violation of privacy law.


All a bit of a legal minefield, where as usual the ultimate winners will be the lawyers who can spend as much time as they can get away with dragging it out for as long as the can, knowing they can charge their fees regardless of whether they win or lose.

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