Nebraska Mulls First Law Putting Deceased's Facebook Accounts Into Estate Plans

By Jackie Cohen Comment

The Nebraska state legislature has been mulling a law that would require Facebook to grant access to a deceased person’s account to the executor of that person’s estate.

State Sen. John Wrightman introduced the proposed law last month at the behest of the Nebraska Bar Association, and it’s the first such bill we know of.

This proposed law would encompass not just Facebook, but all online accounts a deceased person had, stating:

A personal representative shall have the power, unless the personal representative’s authority has been restricted by will or by court order, to take control of, conduct, continue, or terminate any account of a deceased person on any social networking website, microblogging, or short message service website, or email service website.

Facebook currently creates memorialized profiles of the deceased upon receiving notification from family members that the individual has passed.

Like Nebraska’s Journal Star newspaper explained when Wrightman introduced the bill:

When an account is memorialized, Facebook says, it can change privacy settings so that only confirmed friends can see the profile or find it in a search. It removes sensitive information such as contact information and status updates. And it prevents anyone from logging into it in the future, while still enabling friends and family to leave posts.

This also stops the site from suggesting a deceased person as a possible friend to the bereaved. None of these practices are addressed in Nebraska’s proposed law, which would go into effect in 2013, if enacted. The legislation also doesn’t appear to have any effect on the growing number of third-party offerings that address the virtual memorial space, which include 1,000 Memories, Entrustnet, and If I Die.

Readers, do you think estate planning needs to include social media?