What Should Be In A Fully-Wired Twenty-Something's Will?
February 11, 2013 8:31 PM   Subscribe

Recently, several friends and acquaintances in their 20s have passed away. Their online accounts -- particularly their Facebook accounts -- linger, as memento mori, covered with "miss u" wall posts and that sort of thing. Which has got me thinking about what will happen when people who are now in their 20s and early 30s die. Especially if they die young.

So, a few questions. 1) Can/should a person in their twenties, who doesn't have much in terms of material possessions but does have intellectual property, make a will of some sort? How do you go about doing this so it's honored when/if you die -- and your family/friends actually find it? Preferably without having to have it prepared by a lawyer.

2) Is there a way to set up a 'self-destruct' or 'the end' for online accounts -- Facebook, email, etc -- so they don't take on a life of their own after your death, if you don't want them to? What's the best procedure for such a thing? In one case, the deceased person in question's friends continue to post to her facebook wall months and months after her death: videos, pictures, all sorts of things. I guess I wonder, too, what the historical and political implications of this are, in the context of death rituals through the ages. At first glance, I'm repulsed by this -- but, thinking about it more, maybe this is a natural advancement of death and mourning, record-keeping and so on. And then there's the question of these records effectively being owned by a for-profit business like Facebook. Your thoughts?

3) What if you die suddenly? What guarantee do you have that these plans will fall into place and folks will find/carry out your will? Who do you give your will to? A friend? Siblings would seem to be the most obvious answer, but what if you're an only child?
posted by Miss T.Horn to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
1. Have a will as soon as you're an adult, period. Why the aversion to having it prepared by a lawyer?

2. Totally depends upon the website/email host/etc.

3. There are not guarantees in life... or death. Having people you trust know you have a will is a big plus - so they can find it. Having it prepared by a lawyer might help in the event you're friendless and without family.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:39 PM on February 11, 2013

re Facebook:
They will close an account if you send them a death certificate (or obit? proof of death). Because most people don't know this, you should include instructions for doing so in your will. And if you don't mind them owning your social life while alive, it shouldn't bother you in death.
Metafilter will also close accounts when contacted. I don't know of any such procedure for Twitter, for instance - as blaneyphoto says, it depends on the website. It should be up to you to think of any accounts you care about, ask the site/owners how to close it, and leave instructions for doing so in your will.

Or, kind of alternative to a will, one way people are beginning to deal with online accounts is through a Dead Mans Switch service (first one off google) which is set up to send various passwords to a chosen friend/executor, who can then close them or archive them as needed.

Note that if by 'intellectual property' you mean anything more valuable than a facebook account, then I very strongly suggest having a lawyer assist in drawing up a will.
posted by jacalata at 8:54 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

There was a recent post on the Blue that might be a good place to start looking into planning your will and related arrangements.

Regarding our digital lives, there is some info available here. Most major social media sites have put policies of one sort or another in place, and states are beginning to pass laws about access to online accounts after death.

It seems to me the simplest route is just to compile a list of the login information for sites you use, store it somewhere safe, and leave instructions for accessing it after your death with a trusted friend or family member. Or, as jacalata notes, there are a ton of "deadman's switch" services springing up (LegacyLocker is another one Google turned up).
posted by Wretch729 at 9:39 PM on February 11, 2013

1. When you are an adult, you should have a will.

From (bitter and multiple) family experience, you have no idea either who will appear out of the woodwork, or who will turn and become less pleasant, when a bereavement occurs. The possibility of a large amount of money can change people. Those you trusted before, may not all be good people in this scenario.

If you don't use a lawyer, then you increase the risk of hassle - costly and draining hassle - when the estate is being sorted out.

2. Although it's maddening with a huge amount of logins we often generate nowadays, try and maintain some kind of secure list or chain and put a copy where your partner can get at it, and knows about it. They will be the one most affected by your passing, of course. If no partner, then kill switch services or the person you trust most of all. Gut instinct is sometimes the only thing we have to go on.

3. There's no 100% guarantee (see answer 1). Sorry. Again, using a legal representative will lessen the chances of things going badly wrong on your death. And ironically, not using a legal representative to do this before you die will increase the chances of legal people getting involved and sucking up lots of the estate in costs due to battle(s) over it.
posted by Wordshore at 11:14 PM on February 11, 2013

This is a popular topic. One discussion from a couple of years ago.
posted by yclipse at 5:10 AM on February 12, 2013

Best answer: What Happens Online When You Die
posted by NoraCharles at 5:30 AM on February 12, 2013

For the OP: many lawyers aren't necessarily going to be experts in the online side of things. When you do find legal representation, it might be worth ensuring they understand these particular concerns and the legal ramifications thereof.

For everyone else: any ideas on how to find a lawyer who *is* up on these issues?
posted by nat at 7:02 AM on February 12, 2013

Best answer: >any ideas on how to find a lawyer who *is* up on these issues?

Probate practice is very localized. In any given geographic area, this kind of knowledge will be very much "hit and miss" among the experienced estates and probate lawyers. Thus, the best approach would be to find a good local lawyer to handle the primary work, and then consult separately with a lawyer who is familiar with the issues regarding online assets. The consultant would advise and work with the local lawyer and would not have to be licensed in your state.
posted by megatherium at 5:02 AM on February 13, 2013

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