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Facebook to allow 'legacy contacts' for when you die

Your posthumous profile page can now be managed by someone you designate to handle that part of your online legacy.

Your Facebook legacy contact will be able to set up your profile page to remember you. Facebook

As you make out your last will and testament, you can now also take a moment to determine who'll look after your Facebook account when you're gone.

The mammoth social network is set to begin rolling out a new feature called the "legacy contact." Whoever you set as that contact will be able to manage your account -- parts of it, at least -- or delete it altogether after your death.

Your legacy contact could, for instance, write a post announcing details of a memorial service, update your profile picture and cover photo, respond to new friend requests, or download an archive of your profile posts and photos, Facebook said Thursday in an emailed statement. Your profile page could also be retitled with the word "Remembering" above your name.

Your Facebook executor isn't all powerful, though, and will not be able to actually log in as you, change your account settings or see your private messages.

You can also let Facebook know if you'd prefer to have your account deleted upon your death.

Previously, Facebook offered what it called a basic memorialized account -- essentially, it remained as you last left it -- but there was no provision allowing someone to manage that.

Social media and other online venues have found themselves in an awkward spot when it comes to handling accounts after the owners of those accounts have died. In 2012, for instance, a judge ruled that, on privacy grounds, Facebook was not required to comply with a subpoena from the representatives of the estate of the late Sahar Daftary for access to Daftary's account. The next year, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law to make it easier for parents and legal guardians to obtain Facebook content and other digital assets of a deceased minor.

In 2013, Google introduced an option with the dispassionate title of Inactive Account Manager to let you determine what happens to your Gmail account, Google Drive documents and so forth after you've died.

Facebook's legacy-contact option will be introduced first in the United States and eventually extended to other countries. The social network has nearly 1.4 billion monthly active users around the world, and 890 million daily active users on average. Of that latter group, approximately 82 percent are outside the US and Canada.

(Via The Wall Street Journal)

Update 10:06 a.m. PT: Added background on disputes over the social-media accounts of people who have died.