Social media estate planning

When it comes to making future plans there’s so much to consider; from how you'd like your funeral to be, to what happens to your possessions when you are gone.

But what about your social media profiles?

It may seem trivial but as we invest more and more of ourselves into our online presence, we leave behind a digital legacy of photographs, check-ins and status updates along the way.

Walking the difficult tightrope between respecting the privacy of the deceased and the demands of grieving friends and family, Facebook users can now choose to designate an online executor to look after their profile after they die.

Facebook said that the feature will work in the same way as an executor of a will, only for your online profile.

The ‘legacy contact’ can make one last post on your behalf when you die, respond to new friend requests, update the cover photo and profile, and archive your Facebook posts and photos.

This, of course, is a huge burden of responsibility for the legacy contact, and requires a level of trust on behalf of the deceased.

If users do not name a legacy contact, but do name a ‘digital heir’ within their will, Facebook will designate that person as a legacy contact.

Facebook has long been looking at ways to help families remember loved ones following a series of high-profile cases in which people wanted to access dead relative's pages.

In 2009, Facebook introduced a memorialising process which meant that a user who had died would no longer appear alongside advertising, or in contextual messages - and friends would not be reminded of a person's birthday.

The social network already has a memorialisation system in place where people can let Facebook know a user has passed away. Once Facebook verifies that person has died — typically through an obituary or news article — the account becomes memorialised. Memorialised accounts don't surface in friend suggestions, ads or other 'public' places on Facebook.

In the past, we wrote about a father who wanted to create a video using Facebook's Look Back feature, which brings together popular moments on a person's profile.

But because he could not access his son's profile he was unable to make one.

On that occasion, Facebook said it would create one on behalf of his dead son and promised that they would look again at how to help families in similar circumstances.

And with the legacy contact feature, Facebook is taking the memorialisation process a step further.

Personally I think these Facebook pages can serve as fitting tributes, where people can get together and share memories and loved ones they have lost.

Social media has become a huge part of our lives but it's difficult to predict if posthumous Facebook profiles will become the digital gravestones of the future.

Social media estate planning

As we invest more and more of ourselves in social media, will Facebook profiles will become the digital gravestones of the future?