People may soon have to start including their Facebook and other social media accounts in their wills if they want family to have photographs and other items after they die.

A legal symposium at NUI Galway at the weekend heard that the days of families inheriting shoeboxes of photos and correspondence will soon end and instead families will be left in a legal limbo following the death of a loved one.

Damien McCallig, a PhD student in the school of law at NUIG, said it was almost inevitable people would have to start specifying who should have their Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts after they die. But the legal uncertainty about digital records will extend far beyond sentimental photos.

“At least with a physical record people can say: they are my property and I own them. When they are digitised the argument becomes over slightly different things and they are locked behind passwords controlled by a certain agency, including the HSE,” Mr McCallig said.

He addressed a symposium Privacy from Birth to Death and Beyond at NUIG and said there was a vast area not governed by legislation.

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