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Social Media Accounts Part of Deceased Oklahomans' Estates 120

Posted by timothy
from the where's-the-undead-button dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Estate executors or administrators in Oklahoma have the power to access, administer or terminate the online social media accounts of the deceased, according to a new state law. '"The number of people who use Facebook today is almost equal to the population of the United States. When a person dies, someone needs to have legal access to their accounts to wrap up any unfinished business, close out the account if necessary or carry out specific instructions the deceased left in their will," Kiesel said.'"
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Social Media Accounts Part of Deceased Oklahomans' Estates

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  • But will facebook play ball or say the state they are in does not have that law and we will not let you in.

    • by hedwards (940851)
      I think they will unless whatever state they use for legal jurisdiction says they can't. The main reason being that there's no profit for them in having dead accounts and it looks really bad refusing lawful requests.
      • there's no profit for them in having dead accounts

        I disagree on that point. I'm sure people who have died and whose pages are visited by others make them money by ad views. However, the optics of the situation from a marketing perspective far far outweighs the amount they make, so I agree overall with your post.

        • by geegel (1587009)

          You forget an essential part of marketing: public image. My personal prediction is that social media websites will embrace these laws and even come up with a few apps on the way. It's I believe a natural transition. Social media is no longer made up of 13 year olds anymore.

          • by cayenne8 (626475)
            The synopsis of this thread...mentioned that the number of FB users is almost the same as the number of US citizens....wow.

            Am I the only one left that doesn't have a FB account?

            Am I about the only one that is just kinda creeped out and paranoid about all the info they gather and share/sell about their members?

            :(

            • by bami (1376931)

              The worldwide number of FB users is equal to the number of US citizens.

              So there is plenty of Americans who don't have a facebook account :).

    • I think they'll probably go along with it. Facebook has an increasing awkwardness problem with the accounts of dead people, and has made some efforts to mitigate it via things like "memorializing" pages. To the extent that someone wants to make "figure out what to do with the dead person's Facebook account" part of the estate-resolution process, it basically takes the problem off Facebook's hands and passes it to someone else.

      The main stumbling block I can think of is how to set up a procedure for handing off an account. You have to verify that the person in question really is authorized to execute the deceased's estate, and that procedure might vary from state to state or country to country, which might cause some administrative hassles for Facebook.

      • by StikyPad (445176) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @03:52PM (#34421720) Homepage

        More interestingly (to me, since I'm not dead (yet)), if an account is part of an estate in death, then how does that affect its status in life? Is it *my* property? And if so, what rights do I have to it beyond what Facebook provides in the license agreement? And if it's not my property in life, then how can it possibly be part of my estate in death?

        • by DRJlaw (946416)

          More interestingly (to me, since I'm not dead (yet)), if an account is part of an estate in death, then how does that affect its status in life? Is it *my* property? And if so, what rights do I have to it beyond what Facebook provides in the license agreement? And if it's not my property in life, then how can it possibly be part of my estate in death?

          Your debts are not "your property" in life or in death. Yet the executor of your estate has the ability by law to act for you in maintaining and settling thos

          • by StikyPad (445176)

            Sure, but the examples you give -- debts, children, and burial -- are your (or someone's) legal obligation. Accounts are neither obligations nor rights, so then what are they? The only other possibility is that it's an asset. In fact, a cursory Google search appears to confirm that this law asserts just that [fox23.com].

            As an aside, children are a notable exception, in that if there are no surviving parents or guardians, then the decision is ultimately up to a judge. You will may be considered, but the best interes

        • by DaveGod (703167)

          The executor or administrator is basically an agent. Provided they have good authority agents "are" their principal. For example, a company director is an agent of the company and his actions "are" those of the company*.

          This can be not only awkward but difficult for practical reasons when the principal is dead, especially for tasks not considered when drawing up the executor's powers.

          Basically this law means by default the executor has the same power over the social networking accounts as their principal d

          • by StikyPad (445176)

            Interesting, but an account is a contract, and contracts cannot be continued by a non-living person, nor can they be transferred unless the contract explicitly makes allowances for that. For example, one may have a contract of employment with his employer, but the executor/principle certainly cannot become the new employee in your stead.

            I suspect this law will be ruled invalid should it ever be tested in court.

            • by DaveGod (703167)

              I'm not a lawyer, but I'm pretty sure contracts may continue after death, they are only voidable if the contract involves some characteristic personal to the offeror.

              Because of this your example is correct, but it is not generally applicable. However there are numerous other possibilities that might often come into play such as frustration of purpose.

              In our case I expect "personal characteristic" is arguable either way but I should think it would be extremely easy to word the service agreement in a way tha

              • by fishexe (168879)
                I'm not a lawyer either, but I am a law student who has taken Contracts and you are correct.
            • by fishexe (168879)

              Interesting, but an account is a contract, and contracts cannot be continued by a non-living person...

              False. This is true for some types of contracts (like employment in your example) but not for all types. Specifically, contracts to pay out money continue after death and bind the estate. IANAL but I am a law student and I have taken Contracts.

        • I'm not dead (yet))

          Yes you are.

        • Many funeral plots are leased, not sold. And yet, leased funeral plots can still be part of your estate.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        The main stumbling block I can think of is how to set up a procedure for handing off an account. You have to verify that the person in question really is authorized to execute the deceased's estate, and that procedure might vary from state to state or country to country, which might cause some administrative hassles for Facebook.

        That's the process to legally act as the deceased, but can't Facebook simply make their own process by amending the ToS? Something like "On conditions X, Y and Z, Facebook will provide the account login information." That might be death certificate, signed statements, perhaps a delay to prevent it being used to steal live accounts and so on. Assuming they provide that, it should be legal for Facebook to hand over the information even if it's according to some local estate protocol.

      • by DRJlaw (946416)

        I think they'll probably go along with it.

        What makes you think that Facebook has a choice?

        • by schwit1 (797399)

          I suspect Facebook will soon alter their TOS to do whatever is to their advantage. It may include a clause that gives them ownership to accounts of the deceased.

        • by cayenne8 (626475)
          "What makes you think that Facebook has a choice?"

          What makes you think Facebook has to obey the law or whatever in a state where they have no physical presence?

          I mean, still today at this point...a store selling something on line, cannot be forced to collect tax for a state they don't have a physical presence in....and that involves $$$$$$.

          I mean, if a state can't force them on the almighty tax dollar...you think they can force them to do anything with a mere social site account?

      • by fishexe (168879)

        The main stumbling block I can think of is how to set up a procedure for handing off an account. You have to verify that the person in question really is authorized to execute the deceased's estate, and that procedure might vary from state to state or country to country, which might cause some administrative hassles for Facebook.

        How is this any different from handing off a bank account? Somehow brick and mortar institutions have managed to handle this "stumbling block" for centuries. Facebook doesn't have to handle any more administrative hassles than any bank with the same number of customers would.

    • Facebook doesn't really have a choice. The executor, for practical purposes, is acting as the decedent. A court order will clear up any uncertainty.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Good job, Oklahoma.

    • by clong83 (1468431)
      For real! Finally my native state is in the news for passing a law that makes some iota of sense!

      I know I'm responding to a different post here, but as for whoever mentioned the death tax... I'm hoping they weren't serious. Death tax only affects those who inherit sizable estates, and if you're in that game, surely a facebook page is the least of your worries. Besides, that's not really Oklahoma's problem, that's a federal issue.
  • You're DEAD
    • by Aladrin (926209)

      Having peace of mind about what will happen to your loved ones after you die is part of living -now-.

    • I'd like to know that my beneficiaries will execute a huge DDoS attack in the event of my passing. Thank you.

      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        I'm kinda hoping to be cremated, and I'd like my friends to go have a drink at several bars in the French Quarter, and flush a bit of my ashes down the toilet at each stop along the way.

        Seems like a neat way to go....oh, and they have to play either Brown Sugar or Star Star [wikipedia.org] (if they can find it) at each place too!

    • I worked with a contract programmer several years ago, we kept in touch as he travelled around the country. He emailed me when he moved to Des Moines, and about 6 months later I emailed that I would be travelling through there - message bounced back. I checked his FB profile and found a message from his brother that he'd passed away, with an email address for the brother. Most of my FB "Friends" are people that I don't see or talk to one-on-one for years at a time, but FB lets us keep in touch. I would
    • "You're DEAD"

      The LIVING

    • by Abstrackt (609015)
      Funerals aren't for the dead, you know, and neither is this. This makes it easier for the living to tie up loose ends the dead no longer can.
    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      But somebody has to change your status to 'dead' or 'temporarily deceased'.

  • Facebook says they have 500 million users. Last I knew, that's quite a bit more than the population of the USA. http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics [facebook.com]
  • Just move the account to http://deadbook.com/ [deadbook.com]

    Wait, wait, wait, Gimme a minute, Let me first go and register that domain

    Dang it. Some squatter got it already. Damn!

  • Not pointless.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by intellitech (1912116) * on Thursday December 02, 2010 @03:26PM (#34421406)

    It has been very hard in the past for members of the deceased to close down their social networking accounts, or even post a message with the funeral information. This law should give them the ability to manage the accounts accordingly.

    • by lmcgeoch (1298209)

      It has been very hard in the past for members of the deceased to close down their social networking accounts, or even post a message with the funeral information. This law should give them the ability to manage the accounts accordingly.

      Yes but..maybe Facebook should be more proactive and make some kind of a living will setting or something...I agree it would be super creepy but better than trying to deal with legislator with each state/province/country.

    • What you wrote is valid and true.

      And of course it would be impossible for a small, modestly skilled company like Facebook to come up with a procedure for making funeral information available without giving all of the deceased's social life to whoever wins the inheritance.

      But this will also let the heirs (sometimes the ones intended by the deceased, often the ones who win in court) learn all sort of private things about the deceased's relationships, preferences, beliefs, likely passwords, etc. And those of
      • How is this any different from the rest of a dead person's estate? When a person dies, there is always the potential that their heirs will argue about the disbursement of the estate, and that scandals will come to light. The dead person is dead. By definition, they don't care. It is the right of the heirs (either those selected by the deceased, or those determined by the courts) to determine what to do with the estate.
        • They don't care, but other people involved very well might.

          I don't care, either, actually. It's just something for people should be aware of.
      • What you are missing is that this gives the power not to the heirs of the deceased but to the executors of their will. This is generally someone chosen by the individual before they die. Of course, if you haven't done this then the court will apoint someone (usually a spouse, parent, child) to perform this function.
      • by fishexe (168879)

        But this will also let the heirs (sometimes the ones intended by the deceased, often the ones who win in court) learn all sort of private things about the deceased's relationships, preferences, beliefs, likely passwords, etc. And those of others, still living. It will be an absolute bonanza for attorneys and other scumbags.

        How is that any different from inheriting someone's letters and diaries? People act like this is a whole new world because it's online but the issues seem to be basically the same as they've always been.

    • It has been very hard in the past for members of the deceased to close down their social networking accounts

      I think they're dead, so mouse clicking and password entering become quite a chore when you go all stiff and whatnot.

      (I know you meant "members of the deceased's family," I am on my lunch.)

    • A friend of mine died 5 years ago. I still get suggestions to link to him as a friend on some social networking sites. Creeps me the hell out.

  • That the Singularity will not come for Ray Kurzweil?

  • ...since the administrator of an estate normally has power of attorney. This law may make it easier for administrators to convince Google et al of that fact without resorting to court orders, though.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      ...since the administrator of an estate normally has power of attorney. This law may make it easier for administrators to convince Google et al of that fact without resorting to court orders, though.

      So ... then we can expect "power of attorney" phishing scams to start liberating people from their on-line accounts?

      Seriously, before this should be allowed to happen, you really do need a verifiable, court supported document. At least, I hope you would ... just sending an email saying "HI, I'm the executor for

      • Seriously, before this should be allowed to happen, you really do need a verifiable, court supported document.

        That would be the one appointing you administrator of the estate: the same one you use to gain access to bank accounts.

        ... just sending an email saying "HI, I'm the executor for the following accounts whose owners are now dead" should not cut it.

        You don't get to be the administrator of an estate just by saying that you are.

  • by Aerynvala (1109505) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @03:44PM (#34421622) Homepage
    I've got a mutual agreement with a couple of different friends. They'll be able to access and attend to my accounts, and I theirs, whenever one of us dies. Not just online stuff, but dealing with personal computer stuff that family really doesn't need to be dealing with. We're all single, and happy to remain that way, so we won't have spouses to do that for us. In my social circle two people have died in the past 5 years and have had their blog account memorialized. I'm not one for sentiment, but it helps that the accounts were neither deleted nor just left without explanation. Granted, this wasn't on facebook, but presumably people who use that service frequently would feel similarly.
  • That they apparently have people in Oklahoma, or that they have internet access!

    • by tompaulco (629533) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @04:04PM (#34421954) Homepage Journal
      Of course there are people here. This is where all the people from the coasts go when they realize that the job market where they are sucks, the people are all jerks, and it costs too much to live there.
      • by H0p313ss (811249)

        Of course there are people here. This is where all the people from the coasts go when they realize that the job market where they are sucks, the people are all jerks, and it costs too much to live there.

        Sounds logical, up until you consider the fact that there are provinces of Canada with higher populations than Oklahoma.

      • Of course there are people here. This is where all the people from the coasts go when they realize that the job market where they are sucks, the people are all jerks, and it costs too much to live there.

        Ha ha HAHHAHAHAAA ha *heh *heh* *can't breath* ha , he he he,

        If they think the job market is bad on the coast, wait till they get to OK. When I left, people were fighting over jobs at McDonalds. Granted, that was a while back in a really bad recession, but I doubt it is much better or that you'll find as go

        • by tompaulco (629533)
          If they think the job market is bad on the coast, wait till they get to OK.
          In 2009, Oklahoma City was named the most recession-proof city by Forbes magazine. The current unemployment rate is 6.0% and falling. National average is 9.2%. Los Angelos is 11.8%, San Fransisco is 10.5%, San Diego is 10.6%, New York is 8.5%, Boston is 7.3%. Your Seattle is 8.7%. I was shocked to find out that the unemployment here is even 6%. I can't believe there are large cities in the U.S. where 1 person in 10 does not have a
    • No - i'm sorry - we're still all Tee-Pee's and we have been using smoke signals in binary for quite a while... Have you not heard of the TeeSeePee-ISeeSmoke protocol?
    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      that dead people in oklahoma give a shit, or that people in oklahoma can read?

    • by Apuleius (6901)

      IIRC, one of the Internet's most important routing hubs is in a building in Oklahoma.

    • Seriously, what warrants all of the Oklahoma bashing? I lived in Tulsa until college and it is a wonderful city. My mother did human resources at the worlds largest aircraft maintenance facility, while my stepdad worked at an enormous hub for what was then MCI. We had an 80 acre ranch that was within reasonable biking distance of a downtown with fifty story buildings. The city was laced with well over 100 miles of dedicated bike paths through parks and along waterways, and you could kayak in the river d
  • Ok, so a fairly sensible provision, statutes need to evolve with this sort of thing.

    But.. Is there some sort of proviso that you must immediately announce (in a decent manner..) the death of the accounts owner if you use it to conduct any public affairs, such as replying to a forum message, private message, email message, etc.

    Or can you -only- use it to wrap up the accounts? are you obliged to close the accounts as fast as possible?

    I'm not suggesting you should have to post 'this person is dead' messages al

    • by tompaulco (629533)
      I would think you would only be able to mark the account as a dead persons account.
      Another interesting question is how you determine who the owner of an account is and how many accounts were opened by that person. They could have used a fake identity to register the account (which in this day and age, is the only sane thing to do). On the flip side, they could say in their will that "thus and such is my facebook account", but what if it really isn't? The only way to know with reasonable surety is if they a
    • by compro01 (777531)

      All that depends on your instructions in your will. They are only permitted to do what you instruct them to do with the accounts, whether that be provide for their continued operation or simply shut them down . Anything else is a violation of existing estate laws.

      The law itself is quite short. The "where otherwise authorized" bit is the key part. This law only applies if you instruct them to do something with the accounts.

      Section 1. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified by the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 269 of Title 58, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows :

      The executor or administrator of an estate shall have the power, where otherwise authorized, to take control or, conduct, continue, or terminate any accounts of a deceased person on any social networking website, any microblogging or short message service website or any e-mail service websites.

      Section 2. This act shall become effective November 1, 2010

      https://www.sos.ok.gov/documents/legislation/52nd/2010/2R/HB/2800.pdf [ok.gov]

  • Forgot password?
    Lost access to registered Mail account?
    Owner died and you're the heir?

    Is it me or would that look REALLY scary?

  • It's good to know that my children will be able to cherish my facebook account long after i'm gone. It is a prize that will be handed down through generations. To think, a hundred years from now, my great-great-grandchildren will be able to log in as me and "poke" all my dead friends. They can surf while logged in as me, and facebook's trackers will add the viewed sites to my advertising profile. This way, facebook will have a way of delivering incredibly well-targeted ads to them (as they will have generat
  • by shuz (706678) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @04:46PM (#34422590) Homepage Journal
    To my darling wife I bequeath my ebay(tm) account with the 100,000+ power seller star status. To my loved sister I bequeath my facebook(tm) account with 4999 friends and 300,000 acre strips of land in Farmville(tm). Finally to my brother who has helped me weather all the storms of my life I bequeath my WOW account with the Shadow Priest with the 6600 gear rating.
  • Even I, still alive, cannot regain access to my MySpace account, because I lost access to the email address and forgot the password. There is the "salute" process. It doesn't work. They don't even respond.

  • The article was pretty vague on a skim-read regarding the method of closure:

    legal warrant on behalf the estate for those left behind? Facebook no longer demands proof of ID via one-time cellphone "authentication." Meaning, John P. Smith from New York and another John P. Smith from New York can falsely claim based on legal names that the accounts are both theirs (plead errors leading to the creation of dupe accounts or something.)

    just keeping my password? the law would need to force it out of me in life --FA

  • Oklahoma's law seems a very good clarification of this issue, and it provides companies like Facebook with a good way to authenticate notifications of a customer's death.

    But I don't live there, so I have some Python scripts waiting for that day.

    That's to make sure that my Facebook friends get notified that "Apuleius may be attending Apuleius's funeral."

  • of an Oklahoma Cyber-cult who uploaded their consciousness online. They can 'friend' people posthumously! creepy!
  • Don't *most* services automatically remove account that haven't been logged-into in more than X many days? And, if so, if the appropriate person wasn't handed the account credentials within that timeframe (say, 6 months), then the account is gone and any "pending business" would be gone, too.
  • That way, they can never take my /. account!

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