Do You Have a Social Media Will?

[10/29/2015 Update: The government article referenced below
has since been taken down, although the content is still relevant.]

I know… I know… This post is a bit off topic for my usual social media writing. I’m not going to teach you today how to do any neat things with your social profiles. I’m not going to recommend new sites or tools to play with. (Well… maybe I’m not). Instead, what I’m going to do is pose a very important question.

Do you have a social media will?

You may be wondering to yourself, “what the heck is she talking about?” But bear with me for a minute. In April 2012, the U.S. government updated their Personal Finance article about writing a will. Their updated recommendation got a lot of folks in the social media world buzzing because they added a section about writing a “Social Media Will.”

Pundits considered what this might look like and discussed the potential issues involved in writing one. For example, a will is a legal document and, as such, it is a matter of public record. Part of the challenge is, you’re supposed to provide your social media executor with a list of all your social profile user names and passwords along with instructions as to what you’d like done with them. Obviously, you don’t want those as part of any public record!

In addition, good internet protocol requires regularly updating your passwords, and new sites come along all the time requiring new accounts and related passwords. So how do you keep your social media directive up-to-date?

While no one likes to think of their own demise, this topic hit home for me when my fiance died late last year. While he wasn’t “into” social media, he did have multiple e-mail accounts, a blog, and a couple of social profiles out there. He was also moderator of a very active Yahoo Group. I was thankful that he had given me his e-mail password long ago, and that ultimately allowed me to identify and access his other accounts.

It came to mind for me again this week when Tony Robbins’ long-time business partner, Chet Holmes, passed away on August 13, and a friend of mine, Howard Tuckey, posted on Facebook the same day about discovering that an online friend of his had passed away. Howard and I got talking about how some of the friendships we develop online are as real and as lasting as those we have in person, even though we may never actually meet in person. Some even become like family, or “eKin,” to us.(By the way, Howard and I have been online friends since the late ’80s, and we’ve never met — that we can recall — there was that TEXTMOOT we may have jointly attended…)

Anyway, as we discussed how it is that online friends find out about the passing of another, Howard and I thought of a few different ideas. Of course, out of respect for families and legal due process, such announcements should be initiated by the family or with their permission, however, it would be an interesting element to cover in a social media will. Why not, in addition to leaving account names, passwords and disposition instructions, leave instructions as to how friends connected with those accounts are to be informed of one’s death?

So, here’s what I propose a social media will consist of. But please note, I’m not a lawyer and haven’t run this past a lawyer, so there may be some flaw in it. Don’t sue me!

RoboformRather than writing out all the profile names, passwords and instructions for each site, use a tool like Roboform to manage your account information. (You can download a copy here.)

  1. In the Notes section for each entry, specify what you want done with the account in the event of your death, and if and how connections to the account should be notified.
  2. Store the password to your Roboform account with your legal documents in a safe place, making sure that your social media executor knows where it is stored.
  3. Make sure it stays current as you change your Roboform password.

The nice thing about using Roboform in this way is that your account can be accessed from any computer, so long as the person has your account and password info for it. This way, even family members who live halfway across the country can process your instructions without having access to your computer.