We are in the digital age. Much of our social, professional and financial communication takes place exclusively online. We each have multiple email addresses. We receive invoices, bank statements, and financial notices via email. We pay bills, transfer money, and prepare tax returns electronically. Yet, under our current law, the personal representative (or executor) of your estate is not allowed to read your emails or access your online accounts, even if you explicitly direct him to do so after your death.
Why? Account access is governed by the “terms of service agreement” to which you bind yourself whenever you create a new online account; you do not govern access to your own account. Enter Facebook. Just as Facebook has revolutionized online social connectivity, it is leading the way in developing fiduciary access to individual online accounts.
In its security settings, Facebook offers a Legacy Contact tool, which allows each account owner to designate someone to manage certain functions of the account, including responding to new friend requests and downloading content the user had shared on his page. The Legacy Contact cannot log into the user’s account or review messages exchanged with any other Facebook user. Alternatively, the Legacy Contact tool also offers the option of account deletion after death.
Facebook is one of very few websites providing such a tool. Log in a take a look.