What happens to your Facebook page when you die?

What happens to your Facebook page when you die?

At 16, Sabrina Roberts was a star in the making as a singer and an actress.

"She loved performing. Loved it," said her mother, Tammy Harris.

"She's a big performer and singer," said friend Mason Catt.

Catt shared the stage with Roberts in a local production of "Footloose," but he didn't know she was fighting a rare blood disorder.

"Almost everybody that was a fan of her knows what happened because of the social media that exists today," he said.

Sixteen-year-olds aren't supposed to die, but there it was - the details of her deadly condition on her Facebook page. Word spread quickly online.

She died on Feb. 19, 2010.

"Right when she passed away, I went right to her Facebook page and you could automatically see there are so many people posting about 'I'm sorry what happened, RIP,'" said Catt.

Because Roberts' parents knew her password, they were able to keep her Facebook page active. Without that password, this communal grieving place wouldn't have been possible.

"It makes me feel comforted that they're still remembering her, because I never want her forgotten, obviously," said her mother.

After Roberts' death, her parents wanted to read everything their daughter had left behind. But they didn't have easy access to her online life. Her MySpace page was password-protected, as were her text messages.

"I wish we would have known a lot of things," said Harris.

Estate planning attorney Wendy Goffe of Graham & Dunn encourages clients to incorporate their digital assets into their estate planning.

"Who is going to have access to those accounts? That's something everybody needs to at least think through. 'What do I have digitally that someone might need access to?'" said Goffe.

The process, Goffe says, involves choosing an administrator for your digital assets - online accounts, photos, websites. The administrator should know your wishes and your passwords.

Stefanie Felix is an editorial photographer who has archived millions of photos. She's decided her sons should access and share some of her work after she's gone.

"I sort of see it as a legacy almost," she said.

Most of her pictures are archived on her personal computer, but others are stored online at her website.

Goffe encourages clients to know their online provider's policy as some accounts are considered non-transferable.

"It might take a court order to get access to that information, depending on the company's policies," she said.

When soldier Justin Ellsworth died in Iraq, his parents wanted access to his Yahoo email account. He did not leave behind his password.

Yahoo refused their request, saying the account is non-transferable. But after a costly and emotional court battle, a judge granted them access.

"For a lot of people, it's going to be about legacy. What's your legacy?" said John Romano, who authored the book Your Digital Afterlife with Evan Carroll. The book is the first of its kind that helps people navigate through the planning process.

"As long as you do something - even if it's just a short list of what's important to you, even if it's not legally binding - doing some sort of planning and leaving it behind increases the chances that your wishes will be carried out," Carroll said.

The authors recommend sifting through YouTube videos, tweets, blogs, photos, email accounts and social media sites, and decide which are most important.

Facebook recognized the need with a "memorialized" status for profiles, like the one for Roberts.

"It really helps me through my grieving process," said her mother. "I'm shocked I'm saying that actually."

None of us will live forever, but what we create online can live eternal.