17 September 2020

Death and social media profiles: the digital legacy

By Sophie Vermeule

Nowadays it is not only important to consider the physical properties, such as jewellery, real estate, stocks, etc., that are bequeathed at the time of death.

It is also important to consider the digital legacy. More and more people have a profile on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The profiles on such social media platforms are part of the so-called “digital legacy.”

In principle, next of kin are not entitled to social media profiles and the related information. However, it is important for you, but also for your next of kin, to know what to do with your social media profiles in the event of your death. After all, the social media profiles remain online after your death. It is therefore advisable to anticipate the settlement of your digital estate. For example, would you prefer that your social media profile be deleted? Or would you rather have your profile turned into a memorial page?

Recording your choice in the social media platform

Several social media platforms allow you to make a choice in advance. For example, via Facebook’s security settings, a contact person can be appointed who has access to the profile of the deceased. The profile will then receive commemorative status after your death. The contact person can manage the profile so that they can, for example, adjust the profile picture. Facebook also gives you the option to have the profile deleted permanently after your death. The next of kin will have to inform Facebook about your death.

Not every social media platform offers this option. For example, you do not have the option to appoint a contact person on Instagram. The next of kin will have to fill in a form with the request to give the profile commemorative status or to delete the profile.

Drafting a social media will or opening a digital safe

It is also possible to draw up a social media will at the civil-law notary. The notary can record which social media profiles you have, which username and passwords belong to them and for example if you would like to have your profile deleted after you have passed away. In addition, it is possible to appoint a social media executor at the notary. This executor does not have to be the same executor as the executor of the will. The social media executor is only authorised to settle the digital estate.

You are of course also free to draw up such an overview yourself. I advise you to clearly communicate your wishes and the location of the abovementioned overview to the next of kin. An example is the use of a password manager (digital safe) on your computer or laptop. You can send your relatives the login details of the password manager (and the login for your computer too). Your next of kin can then log in independently to your social media profiles.

Would you like more information about the settlement of a digital estate? Please contact Sophie Vermeule.

Sophie Vermeule

Sophie Vermeule


Sophie works as a lawyer within the Family & Inheritance law department of GMW lawyers.

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