Our impending demise is not something we like to think about, let alone plan for. However, end-of-life preparations and arrangements are not only necessary, they are also a kind and loving thing to do for those we leave behind. It’s a final gift to our loved ones to have arrangements like estate plans and funeral arrangements complete, readily accessible, and perhaps even paid for.
In this era of social media and digital assets, an important aspect of our estate that should be taken care of is our online presence. You very well may not care what you leave behind on Facebook, but having that account active may cause pain to your loved ones. For example, friends may be reminded of your birthday, or friends or co-workers may receive suggestions to friend you (Facebook) or connect with you (LinkedIn). Accounts also get hacked. You probably wouldn’t want your loved ones to see new and interesting photos suddenly crop up in your timeline. When making your EOL plans, think about what you want done with your accounts. Do you want everything deleted? Would you like your Facebook profile to be memorialized? Also, who do you trust to follow your wishes?
Social media platforms vary greatly in how they handle accounts of deceased members. The most efficient thing to do is make sure that your estate papers include a list of your social media accounts, with login names and passwords. Your loved ones can then log in as you and simply delete the account, if that is what you wish, or retrieve photos and other content they want to save.
Facebook offers users the greatest flexibility for how accounts are handled post-mortem. In addition to having the usual process for requesting the removal of a loved one’s account after death, you, as account owner, can specify how your account is handled now, while you are alive and in full command of your faculties:
If you know you want your Facebook content deleted after death, you can specify this in your settings. A loved one will still have to notify Facebook upon your death in order for the account to be deleted.
You can designate a legacy contact. This person can chose to memorialize your account or delete it permanently. A memorialized account becomes a place for friends and family to share memories after a person has passed away.
Memorialized accounts have the following features:
The word Remembering will be shown next to the person's name on their profile.
Depending on the privacy settings of the account, friends can share memories on the memorialized timeline.
Content the person shared (example: photos, posts) stays on Facebook and is visible on Facebook to the audience with which it was originally shared.
Memorialized profiles don't appear in public spaces, such as in suggestions for People You May Know, ads, or birthday reminders.
No one can log into a memorialized account.
Memorialized accounts that don't have a legacy contact can't be changed.
Pages - also known as business pages - with a sole admin whose account was memorialized will be removed from Facebook if FB receive a valid memorialization request.
For more information on Facebook legacy contacts:
For other social media platforms, survivors must request the removal of a deceased loved one’s account. If you find you need to do this sad task, you will need key information about your deceased loved one, including the email address they used to create the original account and a link to their obituary. Requirements for each platform vary. In the case of Facebook, for example, you need to provide additional proof, such as a power of attorney document or the deceased’s last will and testament.
Use the links below to see more information about this process for each social media platform:
Remember how your parents used to talk about your “permanent record”, and how it would follow you for life? The reality is that, while school records are filed away and eventually destroyed, the Internet is now your actual adult permanent record. Make sure you take the necessary steps to determine how that record reflects on you after you are no longer around to manage it.