If you ever had a friend or family member who has died and left behind a Facebook account, you may have wondered what happens to that account or who has the right to control it. Legally, there has been no clear legislation that addresses this issue, though lawmakers in Nebraska are currently considering such a law.
A bill recently introduced to the state legislature proposes to grant an estate executor the legal right to access the deceased person internet assets, such as Facebook accounts, twitter feeds and e-mail addresses. The executor, known as a personal representative in the state, would be granted the authority to dispose of and control all a deceased person’s social media and related internet accounts.
Currently, Facebook and other sites maintain control of a deceased person’s account and do not allow someone else to access it after receiving notice that the person has died. Other companies, such as Twitter and Google, require notification from an executor that a person has died. The notification includes a requirement that the executor provides a copy of the death certificate, as well as a drivers license and notarized statement with a copy of the obituary.
The bill is currently under consideration, and some lawmakers have expressed concerns. Some say that social media companies that would be affected by this law should first be consulted, while others expressed privacy concerns about granting an executor of the right to have such control over personal social media assets.