What happens to your social media accounts when you die?
by Norah Spie
Among all the things we worry about ‘when we die’, social media is likely not to be on our top list. However, it is becoming a real issue. Have you have received an alert from Facebook saying its your friend’s birthday and yet that friend passed on months ago? Or LinkedIn prompting you to wish a happy work anniversary to a connection who is no longer alive? And those uncomfortable ‘RIP’ messages people post on a deceased person’s account! All these social ills have creeped up on us as we try to maintain morality in the modern day of technology take over.
Could Facebook be the new funeral? For many people, social media has become a platform to help cope with death; you can write touching tributes to the deceased, send comforting messages to their loved ones, and mourn with the rest of the community. But many of us don’t realise that grieving online could actually be more harmful than helpful for the loved ones left behind. Many times, upon learning of the death of someone, without giving it any thought, one goes ahead and announces the death on social media. Now imagine, if you are a close relative and you get a notification via Twitter or Facebook that your loved one is no more.
Before posting something about a death on Facebook or another social media platform, take a moment to see if those closest to the deceased—either a spouse, parent, or child—have said anything online. If not, it would be courteous to wait until they do so.
Now, lets look at what to do with the deceased accounts;
Policies and Steps to Take for managing a deceased user’s accounts
This popular platform has two standard options, plus a new legacy contact option that was recently introduced. First, you can choose to turn the user’s account into a memorial page. Facebook will take extra measures to secure the account in order to protect the privacy of the deceased user. To have a user’s account memorialised, a friend or family member must fill out and submit a Memorialisation Request. You must provide proof of the user’s death, such as a link to an obituary or news article so that Facebook can investigate and then approve the request. The other option you have is to ask Facebook to close the account of the deceased user. Facebook will only accept this request from immediate family members, asking them to fill out a Special Request for Deceased Person’s Account. Instagram uses the same policy.
Facebook recently introduced another feature to help manage memorialized profiles, called legacy contacts. Users can select a family member or friend on Facebook as their legacy contact, which gives them access to their profile when they die.
Google and Gmail
Google introduced Inactive Account Manager to help users plan their “digital afterlives,” which anyone can use to tell Google what they want to be done with all their digital assets after they’ve been inactive for a specific period of time.
Twitter clearly states that it will not give you access to a deceased user’s account regardless of your relationship to the user, but it will accept requests to deactivate the user’s account from either an immediate family member or a person authorized to act on the behalf of the estate.
PayPal asks the estate executor to send a list of required information over by fax, including a cover letter for the request, a copy of the death certificate, a copy of the deceased user’s legal documentation proving that the person making the request is authorized to act on behalf of them and a copy of photo identification of the estate executor. If approved, PayPal will close the account and issue a check in the account holder’s name if any funds have been left in the account.
Planning ahead for how your digital assets are handled after you’re gone has become just as important as all your other assets.