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How to assign a 'legacy contact' in Facebook

Better safe than sorry: give someone you trust the keys to your profile page in case the worst happens.

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I know people who have passed away suddenly -- don't we all? -- and the last thing loved ones should have to deal with is figuring out how to access and update their dearly departed's Facebook page.

If you have a Facebook page of your own, now you can make things easier on your friends and/or family by designating a This new feature allows the person of your choice -- a close friend, your spouse, your child -- to manage parts of your Facebook account, the better to announce your passing and properly memorialize your life.

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Let's hope your trusted contact never needs to memorialize you on Facebook. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Here's how to choose that person. Note that my instructions describe doing this in a Web browser on your PC, but the procedure is virtually identical if you have an updated version of the Facebook app on your phone.

Step 1: Open Facebook, click Settings, and then click Security.

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Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step 2: Click the Legacy Contact option, then click the "Choose a friend" field and start typing the name of the person you want. (Remember, this being Facebook, everyone is a "friend." Obviously you can choose a relative if you want.)

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Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step 3: Review the notification message your contact will receive and make any desired changes. (I found it a pretty formal message to send to my wife.) Then click Send.

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Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step 4: If you want, check the Data Archive Permission box, which would allow your contact to download posts, photos, videos and/or other content from your account. Click Close and you're done.

In the unfortunate event you pass on, your contact will still need to inform Facebook and submit a memorialization request. Once that's approved, he or she can write a post for display atop the memorialized Timeline, respond to new friend requests, and update the profile picture and cover photo.

Here's hoping no one needs this feature anytime soon.