Here's how to pick an heir for your Facebook account

Facebook feature allows legacy contact to manage a user's account after they die

Facebook is making it easier for your account to live on even after you die.

The social networking site Thursday introduced a feature in the U.S. that allows people to essentially will their accounts to a family member or friend who can manage their account when they die. Once an account is memorialized, the "legacy contact" can write a post on behalf of the deceased, respond to new friend requests and update the profile picture and cover photo. 

If a user chooses, they can also give the legacy contact permission to archive Facebook posts and photos. The legacy contact will not be able to log in as the person who died or see that person's private messages. 

Users also have the option to let Facebook know if they'd prefer to have their account permanently deleted after they die. 

"By talking to people who have experienced loss, we realized there is more we can do to support those who are grieving and those who want a say in what happens to their account after death," said a Thursday post from Facebook's product team.

Facebook users can access the feature by going to "settings," choosing "security" and selecting "legacy contact" at the bottom of the page. Once a person is picked, users have the option to send a message to let that person know they've been chosen, but they aren't required to do that.

Facebook even provides users with a suggested message to send to friends, explaining why they were chosen: "Since you know me well and I trust you, I chose you. Please let me know if you want to talk about this."

There have been ways for people to access Facebook accounts of users who die, but it's usually a difficult legal process.

"We want to keep Facebook secure so we don’t allow people to share their password or let anyone else access their account," said Jodi Seth, a spokeswoman for Facebook. "With the legacy contact, the user is giving permission in advance to a trusted friend or family member to manage specific aspects of the account."

If a person doesn't name a legacy contact, but names a digital heir in a legal will, Facebook would allow that person to become the legacy contact. However, if a person were to name a digital heir in a legal will and that person wasn't the same person named as a legacy contact, Facebook would give the legacy contact control.

Google introduced a similar feature in 2013, allowing people to manage their digital afterlife. The "Inactive Account Manager" allows users to decide what to do with data after they die or the account becomes inactive for some time.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times


10:08 a.m.: This article was updated with details about digital heirs.

This article was originally published at 8:46 a.m.