Should Facebook Passwords Be Given to Our Families When We Die?

keyboardKaren Williams' 22-year-old son, Loren, died abruptly in a motorcycle crash, and after he passed, Karen, understandably, wanted access to his Facebook account. Everything these days is online -- at least the most recent stuff -- and Karen just wanted to be able to go through her son's photos, read his comments, and look at silly posts from his friends. It helped her feel closer to him. So, she figured out his password, got into his account, and emailed the company to let them know what was going on. But two hours later, she was kicked out of the website and Loren's password was changed.

Karen said, "I wanted full and unobstructed access, and they balked at that. It was heartbreaking. I was a parent grasping at straws to get anything I could get." After a two-year legal battle, Williams eventually got her son's account back, but she was only granted 10 months of access before the page was removed for good.

And so begins the legal -- and moral -- debate of digital estates.

I'm not ashamed to admit that after my mother died, I tried to get into her email. I knew I wouldn't find anything scandalous or telling in there, but for whatever reason I was seriously intrigued. It would have given me access to some of the everyday, mundane things she did and thought -- and, yes, that would have made me feel closer to her. I never figured out her password, and I'm sure if I went through enough rigmarole I could have, but now that I think about it: There shouldn't be any rigmarole. We should automatically have access to the passwords and accounts of our loved ones who have passed.

I'm not surprised that such a law isn't in place already, as, well, all of this technology is still relatively new, but hopefully cases like Williams' will open the doors for that to change. I mean, think about it: We get access to anything and everything else. Why not their Facebook account? That's where all the good stuff will be -- the photos, the insight as to how they were feeling on a particular day, etc. That's the stuff we want.  

Currently, lawmakers in at least two states are considering proposals that would require Facebook to give loved one's access to a deceased person's account -- hence, a digit estate. Hopefully, they'll go through, and other states will follow suit. This way, people like Karen Williams won't have to endure any more pain and frustration than they already are.

Do you think people should have digital estates?


Image via Sean MacEntee/Flickr



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nonmember avatar Cass

Not unless consent was given ahead of time. The dead should still have their privacy. If she'd gotten into his account while he was alive, people would be shaming her as a nag with no sense of boundaries.

cocob... cocobeannns

I don't agree with this either. What if someone doesn't get along with or particularly care for someone in their family? I don't think their password to anything should be handed over to anyone without that persons consent.

amber... amberdotsmom

Maybe it should be the same as access to your personal belongings or bank accounts.  You should be able to just make it part of your will that the executor you name has access and you should be able to just make that part of your will plus designating others who can have access if you want.  If there's no will then there could be a law that allows the court appointed executor access for probate reasons. Then the companies should have to follow those wishes when the will is filed. It doesn't seem like that should be a problem for my privacy or my family.  And if I specify all on line accounts must be secured and deleted on my death the company should follow (and my family should accept) that also.

nv2507 nv2507

Amber - this was an unforeseen death. I can't imagine a 22 year old with no wife or child has a will.

And I know SERVERAL people, now deceased, that have current FB pages. FB has not removed those pages, so why this one?

bugaem bugaem

no i disagree. if i die tomorrow, i don't want my password to be given to my family. they are all in my friends list and can see the updates and photos that i want them to see. if i have anything private, that i dont want my family to know, even if i die they still should not know the secrets that i'm keeping from them, not taht i have any, but for the sake of example.

nonmember avatar Thesimpletruth

I wholeheartedly disagree!!!! I would not want anyone accessing my personal site if I were to die. I'm married-kids-friends with my mom----the whole thing, BUT that is so invasive!! I hadn't ever though about this, but maybe it's something I should make my wishes known on.

nonmember avatar Kristi

The fact that she wasn't friends with him and couldn't look at his pictures and all that already makes me think they weren't really close. I would say based on that he didn't want her looking at those things and that should be respected. However I personally would have no problem with my husband having passwords to my email and fb accounts. The rest of my family, well we're estranged and haven't spoken to either of my parents in years. They I would have a VERY big issue with having access to my personal information. Someone may only be 22 but they should have realized that if they died and didn't have a will their next of kin would be involved.

ashjo85 ashjo85

I've heard Facebook has a policy of leaving those pages up but ending access, so that the page can serve as a memorial wall for family and friends. It's actually a pain in the ASS to get them to completely remove the page of a deceased individual.

nonmember avatar Amy

I wrote my trust / will & included an insert with all my passcodes for websites. I have nothing to hide & I'd absolutely want my husband or kids to have access to determine whether or not the email / Facebook page (whatever!) remains open or closed after my death. I'd rather it be their choice than a corporation.

I also do think it has the potential to offer healing for those grieving. Like reading emails of condolences over the person's death.

Javi0... Javi05Eli07

I absolutely agree she should be able to have access.  Last year my husband used my account to let all of my friends know that I was in a very serious car accident.  He updated them on how I was doing until I was able to do it myself.  Had he not done that, a lot of friends would not have known because he is not friends with them and has never met or talked to about 97% of them.

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