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What happens to your Facebook when you die?
For better or for worse, social networking sites are the modern day shoebox. They hold our thoughts, our photos and our personal mementos. But unlike physical artifacts, they can die right with us.
Indeed, if you're not careful, your digital life may be deleted before your family has a chance to preserve the memories.
These memories can be very important to your loved ones, which is why the Associated Press reports that Karen Williams sued the site to gain access to her son's profile. The legal battle ended after two years when Facebook gave her 10 months of unfettered access.
The same thing that happened to her son's profile will likely happen to your Facebook when you die. As explained by Facebook personnel, the company has a process for dealing with deceased users. Friends and family are invited to report deaths, at which time the profile will be locked and removed from public search results. Parts of the profile, along with the wall, will remain available to friends so that they can leave messages.
Facebook also says that it will give the deceased's estate a download of the data if there is prior consent or if it is mandated by law.
If you care what happens to your Facebook when you die, prior consent seems to be the key. Only one state -- Oklahoma -- has a law requiring social networking sites to give access to a deceased's estate. In every other state, you'll need to execute a legal document in order to bestow that power upon your loved ones. Otherwise, when you die, you'll leave your friends and family in the hands of Facebook's ever-changing policies.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.