A digital afterlife: Users live on in social media.

By Matt Porter

March 12, 2013 Updated Mar 12, 2013 at 10:20 PM EST

(WBNG Binghamton) Most people don't think about their digital life after death.

But, as more people are becoming active on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, experts say thousands are living on well beyond the day they die.

Blanche Birtch, of Conklin, appreciates her brother's profile remaining active as a "mini-memorial."

"It helps you get through some of it because you can see what other people are feeling, and comment on what they're saying and what they're feeling," Birtch said.

When her 70-year-old brother Wendell died of cancer last summer, she found comfort in keeping up with his Facebook page.

"It's nice to know that it's there," she said, "And that people are still sending to him."

Friends and family, including Birtch, continue to leave loving notes on his wall.

"Because you mourn forever," she said, "It doesn't just stop at the funeral. You mourn forever."

Although some estimates show three Facebook users die every minute, little is established on what happens to those thousands of profiles left behind.

Attorney Dawn Lanouette, of Hinman, Howard & Kattell, said the legal landscape is "very unsettled."

She said access to those pages can be valuable.

"Some people, they're the only places they have their pictures, their family pictures are online," Lanouette said.

People today manage an average of 20 to 25 online accounts.

Some, including email accounts, are nearly impossible to access after death.

"Unless you leave a password for somebody to access it," Lanouette said, "That account is never going to see the light of day."

Only five states have laws concerning rights of access to online accounts after death. New York is not one; neither is Pennsylvania.

That leaves much of the control in the hands of terms of service policies to which each host like Facebook and Twitter make users agree.

The best way to ensure someone can manage your accounts is to leave your passwords with a family member or friend you trust, Lanouette said.

Birtch said she's kept her passwords, including to her Facebook account, for her children.

"I have the account and the password, they would need to go in there," she said, "If it was too troublesome to have it up."

As for her brother, he was cremated in Tennessee.

His Facebook page is all that's left.

"There's no grave," Birtch said. "So this is him, this is where he's at, this is where I can connect with him."

The question of what happens when people die on Facebook has spurred a new application called "If I die."

The app lets users customize a message to be sent out to friends or family members when they pass on.

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