Death and Social Media Passwords
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
What is Your Digital Legacy Plan?
Most people plan to document their final wishes in a last will and testament but not many consider including instructions on what should happen to their Facebook page when they die. With over 1.9 billion users on Facebook, over 300 million on Twitter, and who knows how many on other online sites, having a digital legacy plan is becoming more important than ever in these modern times.
Where do you Start?
It’s difficult enough trying to remember login passwords, so creating a detailed plan for all your email and social media accounts can seem like a daunting task. Still, it’s best to start planning sooner rather than later, and some of the media apps already have documented plans for dealing with accounts of the deceased. Here’s how Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram handle it:
What happens to my Facebook page when I die?
Facebook is the most popular networking app in the world and they offer two options for your profile after your death:
1. Memorialization – your profile can be memorialized to serve as a gathering place for family and friends to post memories and remembrances. You can choose to memorialize your page in advance by selecting a “legacy contact” to administer the account after your passing. The legacy contact (who needs to be a Facebook friend) will be responsible for managing the account, e.g., updating profile pictures or responding to friend requests. However, they have limited capabilities and cannot read your private messages or gain full access to your profile.
2. Permanent deletion – this option can also be requested in advance. Once your account is permanently deleted, it will no longer be seen on Facebook and cannot be reactivated. You’ll still need to select a legacy contact for this, but the person won’t be able to log into your account or make posts/updates.
Note that only verified immediate family members can ask Facebook to remove a loved one’s account, and they must provide either a valid death certificate or proof of authority and proof of their loved one’s passing in order to get the account deactivated.
What happens to my Twitter profile when I die?
Twitter’s policy states that they can only deactivate a dead person’s account based on a request from a verified family member or estate executor. After the deactivation request is received, Twitter ensures validity by obtaining details such as the death certificate, obituary information, and requester identification. Only then will the deceased’s account be removed from the site.
Twitter also states they are unable to provide account access to anyone other than the account owner, regardless of their relationship to the deceased. So without the necessary proof of death, vital statistics, and no memorialization options, a dead person’s Twitter account is often left as is, which can sometimes lead to unfortunate tweets from beyond.
What happens to my Instagram account when I die?
Instagram is owned by Facebook so they also offer account removal or memorialization based on a valid request from an immediate family member. The requester must fill out a form to get the process started and provide proof of death (death certificate, obituary notice) as well as evidence that they are related to the deceased. Unlike their parent company, Instagram does not allow you to choose removal or memorialization in advance, and they do not provide account access or login details for a memorialized account.
Creating a Digital Legacy Plan
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram comprise only a small share of an average person’s digital legacy. Other digital assets include various online accounts such as:
- Personal & business websites
- Social media profiles (LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, Snapchat)
- Communication apps (Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime)
- Gaming (Xbox, Wii, PlayStation)
- Financial service sites (banking, trading, retirement)
- Shopping sites (Amazon, eBay, Craigslist, brand stores)
- Entertainment accounts (Netflix, Hulu, cable tv)
- Other apps & accounts (Uber, Airbnb, Expedia, PayPal, etc.)
The list can go on forever depending on how extensive your digital footprint is. That’s why it’s important to make a digital legacy plan and select a “digital executor” to manage, protect, and preserve your online assets. Getting started on the planning process early is the only way to ensure all your accounts are handled properly in accordance with your end of life plans and preferences.
Choose a digital executor who is technically savvy and sensitive to the confidential details of your digital estate. Whoever you select will need to be aware of state laws governing access to a person’s digital assets.
The Revised Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, completed by the Uniform Law Commission and currently enacted in 35 states, allows fiduciaries or executors to manage digital property like computer files, web domains, and virtual currency. However, the Act restricts access to electronic communications such as email, text messages, and social media accounts unless the original user consented in a will, living trust, power of attorney, or other record. If you already have a will, you can add your digital legacy plan to your will to ensure legality.
Creating a digital legacy plan to manage your online assets is just as important as having a will to protect your physical assets when you die, so make sure to include one in your end of life decision-making process. It will give you and your family much-needed peace of mind when the time comes.
Contributed by Christine Gatuiria at FuneralContentCreative. She writes and creates engaging content for the funeral and death care industry.