Let’s face it. We all use social media. We love the ability to communicate, share our lives, post memories and pictures, and stay up to date with our friends, loved ones, and acquaintances.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Happens to Your Facebook?
- What Happens to Your Twitter?
- What Happens to Your Instagram?
- What Happens to Your TikTok?
- What Happens to Your Other Accounts?
- Tips for Managing a Loved One’s Social Media After Death
- How to Make a Plan for Your Social Media When You Die
We live in the 21st century where every moment of our lives can now be documented, shared, screen-capped, tweeted, and “liked.” There’s one thing we don’t often stop to consider, however. What happens to your social media when you die? What will happen to those Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts? With the digital legacy that people leave behind, friends and loved ones are realizing that even when their loved one is no longer present, their digital afterlife continues on.
According to June 2020 data, there are over 3 billion active Facebook users alone. They’re in every age range and thousands die each day. Hypothetically, if even one social networking platform such as Facebook stops growing, in 50 years’ time, there could be more dead users than live.
Let’s take a look at what happens to your social media accounts when you die so you can plan ahead.
What Happens to Your Facebook?
We never know when we are going to leave this world so it’s a good idea to decide what will happen to your social media accounts in case you die. When it comes to Facebook, as soon as the company is notified of your passing, your account will either be memorialized or permanently deleted depending on your pre-determined wishes. You can choose either option now and have it set up for the future.
If you decide to have your account memorialized so friends and relatives can still view pictures and posts, then you might want to choose a legacy contact. A legacy contact is someone who is authorized to take care of your memorialized account.
Memorializing your account
In case of a person’s death, memorialized Facebook accounts become a place for your family and friends to share memories and enjoy looking over former posts. The key features of memorialized accounts are as follows:
- Above the deceased person’s name, the word ‘Remembering’ will be displayed on their profile.
- According to the privacy settings of the deceased’s account, friends can share tributes and memories on their timeline.
- The content that was shared, such as posts and photos will stay on Facebook. It remains visible to the audience it was originally shared with.
- Profiles that have been memorialized will not appear in public spaces like birthday reminders, suggestions in People You May Know, or advertisements.
- Memorialized accounts can’t be logged into.
- If a memorialized account doesn’t have a legacy contact before the person passes away, this can’t be changed.
- If there are pages whose sole admin is the person whose account was memorialized, then those pages will be permanently removed. This applies to all private messages and chats.
By choosing a legacy contact, you can memorialize your Facebook account knowing that it will stay in good hands.
A legacy contact is someone that you choose to take care of your account when it is memorialized. The legacy contact can do things like pin a tribute post to the top of your page, remove inappropriate tributes from friends, and change the profile picture and cover photo of the memorialized account.
If there is an area for tributes on the memorialized account, the legacy contact can also decide who can post tributes and if there are specific audiences for those posts. This is a great way for your loved one to post your biography, obituary, or any information about your life and legacy.
Giving thought to your legacy contact is always a good idea. This might even be something you want to set in your final will. You can create a legal, effective will online in minutes with Trust & Will to include your legacy contact for your social media profiles.
Permanent deletion of the account
In addition to the legacy account option, you have the option of permanent deletion of your account as well. If someone lets Facebook know that you have died, all your photos, posts, messages, comments, chats, and any other Facebook associated activity will be permanently and immediately removed.
What Happens to Your Twitter?
There are various factors that dictate what happens to your Twitter when you die. If you left a plan, what happens will differ from what happens if there is no plan at all. The best way to ensure your wishes are carried out is to make a plan and leave proper instructions.
When you sign Twitter’s Terms of Service, you agree that you cannot transfer your account to someone else. So, if you want to give someone access to your account, you will have to give them your ID and password.
However, in case you want to keep your account private, then there is a plan for that as well. Your estate executor or a trusted family member can contact Twitter and fill out an online form reporting your death.
Twitter will contact your trusted contact and email with instructions regarding the submission of further details such as a copy of the death certificate, the ID of the deceased, and proof of their ID. This information will remain confidential, and once Twitter is certain that it is not a false report, they will remove this information.
Another thing that you can count on is the inactive policy of Twitter. If your Twitter account remains inactive for 6 months, they automatically delete your Twitter account. There is no tool as of yet to memorialize your Twitter account, but you should keep an eye out for this in the future!
What Happens to Your Instagram?
Instagram also gives you the option of memorializing your account. Your family member or friend can send a request to Instagram after your death to memorialize your Instagram, and they will act on the request. They will require proof of death, such as a news article, an obituary, or copy of a death certificate.
Instagram will not provide login details for the memorialized account. It’s also against their policies to log in to someone else’s account with their credentials.
Removing the account
Another option provided by Instagram is the removal of your account after your death. Verified family members can submit a request for the removal of the account. When a request is submitted, Instagram asks for proof of death to ensure that the person who submitted the request is either an immediate family member or is an executor of your estate. Acceptable proof includes:
- The death certificate of the deceased
- The birth certificate of the deceased (to prove relationship)
- Proof of authority/Proof of relation
What Happens to Your TikTok?
TikTok doesn’t have a policy for memorializing your account in case you pass away. Furthermore, there is no policy for deleting an inactive account. The only thing that you can do is delete your account ahead of time or leave instructions in your will and allow your executor to either delete your account or make other changes.
However, for this, you will have to leave your account information in the hands of the executor or a close friend or a family member. If you are not comfortable with doing so, you can leave instructions on what to do with your account once TikTok hopefully devises a policy for the accounts of deceased users.
What Happens to Your Other Accounts?
Social media accounts aren't the only sites with policies on how to handle a user's death.
Google has a great policy when it comes to deciding what to do with your account and all your information when you die. You can use Google’s Inactive Account Manager, which allows you to leave instructions on what to do with your information in case you remain inactive for a particular length of time. You can choose the time period as well as what details and data are to be shared.
Your family member can contact Google after your death, and they will follow your instructions on which details to make available. A proof of death submission will be required. Your designated family member will not get complete access to your account; they will only get access to items you specify.
There is no option for automatically deleting your account if you die when it comes to Dropbox. In case the account stays inactive for one full year, the files on the account are deleted automatically.
Your family members can also request access to the information in your Dropbox by sending the appropriate documents via mail.
This popular social media platform doesn’t offer a detailed death policy on memorializing as yet but allows you the option to delete the account of the deceased. Your family member or friend will have to contact Snapchat with the required information such as your death certificate or obituary, and they will delete your account after review.
If you want someone to have access to your information, you’ll have to leave your login information with them.
YouTube is associated with your Google account, so Google’s policies regarding the deletion of your account are similar to those of your YouTube channel. You can choose what you want to do with your information once you pass away using Google’s inactive manager.
Like other social media platforms, Pinterest won’t just hand over your login credentials to your family members or the executor of your estate.
However, if Pinterest is contacted and a family member provides proof of death such as a death certificate, they will delete the account. You also have the option to deactivate it while you’re still living.
Yahoo also allows family members to submit a request for the deletion of an account in case of death.
iCloud and iTunes are different, and all the rights to information are terminated once the user dies.
There have been no updates on LinkedIn’s policy when it comes to dealing with the accounts of the deceased members. Anyone can report a dead user’s account. All you have to do is to provide LinkedIn with the required information.
Once you submit a request, LinkedIn will contact you and will ask for further details. They will not transfer information in the account but will delete the account once proof of death is submitted.
Tips for Managing a Loved One’s Social Media After Death
After a loved one passes away, their social media accounts are probably the last thing on your mind. Getting around to dealing with them can feel overwhelming and grief-inducing. Still, at some point, you’ll need to manage their accounts. Use these tips to help you work through the process when you’re ready.
Take your time
Social media accounts don’t necessarily need to be dealt with right away. If you’re the executor of a person’s will, you’ll likely have numerous other responsibilities besides managing these accounts.
Make sure that the estate is taken care of, assets are distributed, and all aspects of a person’s wishes are dealt with. Then, after your list of to-dos are finished, give yourself a moment to pause before continuing on to their digital accounts.
If you need a few extra days or weeks before you can bring yourself to manage their social media, take the time you need. Just don’t wait forever or you’ll leave their accounts open to hackers.
Don’t just ignore it
It might be tempting to ignore their social media accounts. After all, if they aren’t going to use them anymore, can’t they just sit idle? The problem with this reasoning is that hackers are often on the prowl for accounts that look unused. They mirror these accounts, reasoning that the account owners won’t notice, and then message people on the friend list asking for money and other favors.
You might need to take some time and mentally prepare before you tackle this to-do item, but certainly don’t ignore it forever. If the account gets hacked, you’ll then have to go the rounds of getting the hacker blocked and the account unlocked, then memorialized or deleted. Going through those hoops will only add to your stress and grief.
Check terms of service
Before you start logging into accounts, it’s always good to check the platform’s terms of service. As the executor, you often have the right to delete or memorialize accounts. However, each platform has its own specific set of rules you’ll need to follow to keep it legal.
Check our handy guides or contact the platform directly to learn what you need to do. Though currently there are few guidelines regarding the legality of logging into a deceased person’s account, legislation is expected to address this issue in the coming years. Keep yourself in the clear by checking with the platforms before you log in.
Decide what to do with it
This might be the hardest part. If your loved one didn’t leave instructions regarding their social media accounts, it will fall to you to decide what should be done. Here are a few tips to help you out.
Memorialize the page: If you would like some way for friends and family to view the social media page and leave loving comments, look into memorializing if the option is available.
Deleting: If there is no option to memorialize the account, then you should save all pertinent information and delete it. The worst thing to do is leave a deceased person’s account idle and open to attack from hackers.
How to Make a Plan for Your Social Media When You Die
The best thing you can do along with estate planning is to make a plan for your social media accounts. Include this information with your will and end-of-life planning documents for your executor to find upon your death.
Research the terms of service
Understanding what options are available for your accounts is the first step in your planning process. Every social media platform has its own terms of service and regulations regarding what can happen with your account after you pass away. Most platforms allow deletion by an executor. A few platforms provide you with the opportunity to memorialize your account.
Whether you decide to memorialize or delete, these two actions will help keep your account safe and prevent your friends from getting spammed due to a hacker logging in and accessing your account.
Decide what you want to happen with each account
Once you know which options are available to you, it’s time to decide what you want to happen to each account. Make a list of your accounts and write down which options you have - deletion, memorialization, locking, or another option. Then, circle or highlight your preference. Now, you have a list to reference when completing the rest of these steps.
Write everything down
Without writing your wishes down and providing a written document specifying them, your executor or loved one will be left to guess. Remove the burden of guesswork by clearly stating what you want to happen to each account.
Also, specify whether you wish any pictures to be deleted or posts removed prior to memorialization. Alternately, you can do the deleting while working on this part of your end-of-life planning so you won’t have to worry about someone else doing it later.
Share it with your future executor or trusted relative
Unless you share the document with your chosen executor or a trusted relative who can relay the information, no one will know what you want. Creating a document with your wishes is good, but it’s only the first step. No one will know to look on your computer for this document, so it’s important that you make it shareable, if digital, or print a few copies.
Share it with your future executor and ask if there are any questions. Clarify what you want to happen with your accounts to make sure you and your executor are on the same page.
Add it to your end-of-life planning documents
If you have a will, trust, or other end-of-life documents, add your list of preferences for what happens to your social media account. By keeping this document with your other end-of-life papers, they’ll be in one location for your executor or loved one to access when needed.
Periodically review and update your plans
As with anything, social media platforms are changing constantly. Services that didn’t used to have the option of memorializing your account now do. Some platforms currently don’t offer a way to delete your account but they might in the future. Periodically check the terms of service of the accounts you use and update your preferences if they add an option you’d rather.
Also, if you get a new social media account, be sure to return to your end-of-life social media plan and update it with the new account and your preferences for what should happen to it after you pass away.
Manage Your Online Presence
We all have an online presence, and it’s important that you decide what happens to your social media when you die. On one hand, you don’t want your information to fall into the wrong hands. On the other hand, a well-managed profile can become a place where friends and family can get together to grieve and share their favorite memories.
Rather than leave it to chance, it’s always best to provide clear instructions in your will regarding your social media accounts. Not only does this make things easier on your loved ones, but it's a part of your legacy. Your online presence is a powerful part of a virtual funeral with GatheringUs, traditional in-person memorial, or just an important way to be remembered.
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- “How do I report a deceased person's account on Instagram?” Instagram. help.instagram.com
- “Delete Your Account.” Tik Tok. support.tiktok.com
- “Submit a request regarding a deceased user's account.” Google. support.google.com
- “How to access the Dropbox account of someone who has passed away.” Dropbox. help.dropbox.com
- “Snapchat Support.” Snapchat. support.snapchat.com
- “Deactivate or close your account.” Pinterest. help.pinterest.com
- “Options available if a Yahoo Account owner passes away.” Yahoo, Verizon Media Inc. help.yahoo.com
- “What happens to iCloud when I die? - Apple Community.” Apple. discussions.apple.com
- Sharp, Susie. “How to Report the Death of a LinkedIn Member.” LinkedIn. 30 March 2017. linkedin.com