What Happens to Our Social Media Accounts After We Die?
Planning our lives around our careers, families, retirement, and other obligations can be overwhelming enough. So it’s no mystery that few of us set aside time to think about what will happen to our stuff — including our social media accounts — following our death.
Post-mortem arrangements can be an uncomfortable topic to approach for sure. Still, a little preparation can go far in helping our loved ones manage our estates and honour us when we’re gone, including what to do with our suddenly inactive social media accounts.
Fortunately, many of the most popular social media platforms offer post-mortem solutions and memorialization settings for living users and their power of attorney in their absence as follows:
To date, Facebook by far offers the most options and features when it comes to memorializing or deactivating a deceased user’s account, including legacy options the user can select while they’re still alive and memorialization options that allow a deceased person’s profile to serve as a public-facing memorial that friends and family can cherish for years to come.
Facebook Memorialization Settings that all users can access while still alive.
While you’re still alive, Facebook offers its users the ability to select another Facebook user they trust to serve as their “legacy contact.” Your legacy contact can manage your profile and account activities in your absence, including updating your profile picture, managing tribute posts and deleting your account. In addition, memorialized profiles can be a sentimental way for friends and family to share and reflect on heartwarming messages, photos and memories following your passing and for years to come.
If you’d prefer your Facebook account be deleted following your passing, you can also request this via your account’s Memorialization Settings.
How do I access my Facebook account’s Memorialization Settings?
From your profile (click your picture at top right of screen), click Settings > Settings & Privacy > Memoralization Settings > Edit.
However, there’s a catch; Choosing your legacy contact is only available for your main profile and doesn’t apply to additional Facebook profiles or business pages.”
What if I don’t select a legacy contact before my passing?
Facebook also offers your loved ones the option to request to memorialize or remove your Facebook account, pending they can provide proof of authority to act on your behalf.
Instagram’s options are more limited and straightforward. For example, any Instagram user can report a deceased user’s account to Instagram. In addition, an immediate relative or authorized representative of the deceased can request that the account be memorialized or removed, pending they can provide proof of death. However, neither option allows other users to access, change or otherwise edit the content on the deceased’s account.
Suppose you are an immediate family member, power of attorney or executor of someone who has passed away or is otherwise incapacitated. In that case, you can request that Twitter deactivate their account by following the app’s requirements and providing proof of authorization to act on behalf of the incapacitated or deceased user.
Similar to Facebook’s options, LinkedIn offers immediate family members, power of attorneys or executors the option of either memorializing or deactivating a deceased user’s LinkedIn account after providing required documentation that includes the deceased user’s death certificate and proof of authority to make requests on behalf of the deceased. Either way, “once a LinkedIn account is memorialized, access to the account is locked.”
📸 Image copied & pasted from LinkedIn
Other LinkedIn users can also report a deceased person’s account to LinkedIn, pending they can provide adequate information about the deceased.
Owned by Google, YouTube offers options to account holders and their authorized representatives as follows.
Options for living users.
Google offers Google and YouTube users the ability to determine who to grant access to their accounts in the event the user passes away or their accounts remain inactive for a prolonged period of time. Users can also request that their accounts be deleted following their death by setting up Inactivate Account Manager from their accounts.
Submitting a request on behalf of a deceased Google or YouTube user.
Immediate family members or other authorized representatives can contact Google to request account deactivation. Google may also allow an authorized representative access to specific content from a deceased user’s YouTube account, which is granted on a case-by-case basis following “careful review.”
To date, many other platforms, including TikTok, do not offer the ability to memorialize or deactivate a deceased person’s account. In this case, it helps to select a legacy contact or attach a list of your login details for each platform in your Will. This is especially important to do for any of the email accounts or other apps you use to receive bills and other important documentation regarding your home, finances and business. For example, Apple allows users to add a Legacy Contact for their Apple IDs. Although, depending on two-factor authentication settings on each platform, someone acting on your behalf may also need access to your smartphone as part of the login process.
Considering the afterlife of each of your social media accounts and online platforms not only helps your loved ones wrap up your estate in your absence, but it can also help protect your information against identity theft and from being accessed by hackers with malevolent intentions.
How one’s social media account is dealt with after a person passes away is typically governed by each service provider’s policies, which are often incorporated into the terms of agreement when the account is first opened. The procedure typically involves some form of written request with proof of death. While the service provider is unlikely to allow requests contrary to their policies, it is always possible to try where there may be exceptional circumstances.
Have Questions About Wills & Estates and Choosing a Legacy Contact?
If you have questions about other important information to include in your Will, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Estate Law Specialists at Spraggs Law today.
Please note: This article does not contain legal advice. If you would like advice on your specific situation, please contact Spraggs Law.