The process for dealing with post-mortem web accounts is a new challenge for those experiencing the loss of a loved one. The average Internet user has over 25 online accounts according to a Microsoft study. Almost everyone uses the Internet in some way, and of those who use the Internet, 72% have social media accounts. These accounts — along with other digital accounts such as online banking and email accounts — need to be managed after a person’s death.
Virginia, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Indiana, Nevada, and Idaho are the only six states that have laws in place to designate control over digital accounts after a person has died. Generally, the state laws simply require companies like Facebook and Google to hand over access to these accounts when a representative of the deceased provides a written request. Some of the state laws only apply to email accounts, leaving confusion about social media and other password-locked accounts.
To compound the complicated nature of this issue, many of the sites themselves — Facebook and Twitter, for example — retain some rights to the content posted by the person’s account. Thus, these companies are making their own rules about how to manage post-mortem accounts.
Upon the death of a Twitter user, the company provides a form for requesting account deactivation. This form must be filled out by the deceased’s estate executor or a verified immediate family member. Twitter also requires a copy of the death certificate and a copy of the ID of the person requesting deactivation. The company will not provide access to the account for anyone — they only offer the option of deactivation upon death.
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