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Facebook offers new estate planning tool

More and more New Jersey residents are using social media to stay connected to friends and family, and to make new connections with others who share similar interests. Among social media, Facebook remains one of the most popular choices. For some, an event has not truly happened until the details and accompanying photos are posted on Facebook. Over time, the profile grows, and can become a significant digital asset. Until recently, users had few options when it came to including Facebook within estate planning.

The company took a very hard line when it came to allowing others to access the Facebook profile of a user who had passed away. When Facebook was notified of a death, the only two options available to family members were to have the account marked as being "memorialized" or deleted entirely. This approach is understandable, as allowing unauthorized individuals to access the account and make changes could lead to a distortion of the online profile that a user had worked hard to create and maintain.

However, taking such a hard line on the matter did not sit well with families. In some cases, profiles were left in a condition that did not show the user in a positive light. In other cases, families wanted to use the site to communicate with their loved one's friends and organize a memorial for the deceased. Facebook, caught between protecting their users' privacy and being sensitive to the needs of grieving families, developed a solution.

Users can now designate an individual as a "legacy contact" within their Facebook account. This gives the company authorization to allow that person access to the profile, and authorizes them to make changes to the content as desired. In this way, the digital assets stored within Facebook can be collected and archived, and the family or a trusted friend can manage the information that remains accessible to the public. This estate planning tool can make it far easier for New Jersey families to move through the process of grieving for their lost loved one.

Source: vice.com, "Where Does Your Facebook Profile Go When You Die?", Simon Davis, July 21, 2015

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