Organizing a loved one’s possessions is one of the last things you want to think about during mourning. Of all necessary affairs to be dealt with, the question of what to do with the deceased’s social media accounts is probably the least straightforward because it is different for every platform. Instructions regarding this are rarely included in a person’s will, yet leaving their accounts open to friend requests and messages is awkward for many.
Digital assets are sometimes included in a person’s digital estate plan. This is essentially a will with instructions on managing a person’s digital belongings. This could mean photos, videos, documents, cryptocurrency, and social media accounts. A digital estate plan will include a chosen digital executor with exclusive access to the plan.
Why You May Want to Delete a Loved One’s Social Media
If your deceased did not include instructions for handling their accounts in a digital estate plan, you would have to choose between leaving them open or closing them. Some platforms close accounts while others allow them to sit for years.
It is estimated that Facebook has 30 million dead users with open accounts. While an inactive account is still available, it will still be viewable by other people. On Facebook, people still might see your loved one as a friend suggestion which can be disconcerting. It’s quite possible that a hacker could infiltrate their account and use it as they please.
These accounts may allow the hacker to access personal information and or puppeteer their account for nefarious plans. Seeing a scam post from your deceased grandmother about a limited-time deal on Ray-Ban sunglasses has got to be quite unsettling.
Some people prefer to access the deceased’s accounts to inform distant friends and relatives of their passing. This is a delicate matter, and it’s your choice on how to proceed. Here is a guide to help you with whatever you decide.
What You’re Going to Need
Social media platforms handle security differently, but they all aim to protect user account information. Although requirements vary, you will need some basic documents to access your loved one’s account.
- Name of the person who has died
- A link to their profile
- Proof of their death (an obituary or death certificate)
- Proof of your relationship with them or authority to handle their digital estate
Go here if you intend to access or remove a deceased person’s FB account. Facebook will require proof of death, evidence of your relationship – child, mother, father – to the person, and the e-mail used to create the account. Submit a special request with the necessary documentation, and deleting the report should be quick and easy.
If you are a designated “legacy contact,” you will have limited access to updating the person’s account. In this case, Facebook will allow you to change their profile photo and post a status informing friends of the person’s death. However, their messages will be locked to maintain privacy.
Facebook is unique because it offers the option of memorializing the account instead of leaving it open or deleting it. Memorialization means that the account will remain available for friends and family to post messages and share memories of the person, but their account won’t appear in any searches.
Facebook also halts notifications to other users about memorialized accounts such as birthdays, anniversaries, and friend suggestions, which can be disheartening.
Memorializing a page can be desirable, especially if the person was very active online. For example, a memorial Facebook page could be the perfect place for distant friends to pay tribute to the deceased while avoiding any uncomfortable greetings or well-wishes.
Twitter currently has no option to access or memorialize a loved one’s account. They have mentioned creating a feature allowing you to memorialize users’ accounts, but it is still nonexistent. Instead, you would need their exact login information to do so. You can only request that the account is deleted provided you have the necessary documentation, including proof of death and your relationship to the deceased. This link will guide you to do so.
Instagram also allows you to choose between memorializing an account or deleting it.
Click here to begin deleting the deceased’s account. Instagram will suggest providing a birth certificate of the deceased, proof of their death, and proof of your relationship with them. Generally, your request will be accepted only if you are an immediate family member or a legal digital executor.
Request a memorialization of an Instagram account here. Unlike deleting, this process will only require proof of the person’s death and can be submitted by a mother, father, friend, or another family member. Once memorialized, Instagram will add “Remembering” in front of their account name and freeze all activity on the account. No account posts or settings can be altered, but followers can still visit the account to pay their respects and reminisce digitally.
This process and the documents required are generally the same across all platforms not mentioned here. Most sites have a help section to help you handle this difficult time.
We’ve covered the logistics of handling deceased user accounts for three major social media platforms. Now that you have an understanding of digital assets, it may be a great idea to create your digital estate plan to help your friends and family handle your accounts smoothly. No one needs to be burdened with technical problems while grieving.
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