Among many things, one part of a person’s legacy is their digital footprint, including social media profiles. We invest a lot of time into building an online presence that reflects our personality. But what happens to social media accounts after we die?
For many people, social media may be the first – or even the only – way of finding out about a death. It is a way to reach a global audience when notifying friends and extended family of a death. It also serves as a digital tribute forum. You can write on the profiles of your loved ones when you’re thinking of them, or you can write your own tribute for others to view.
Each social media platform offers a different solution for how they handle an account after a user dies. If you desire, you can submit a request to have an account deleted entirely. Other options include turning the profile into an online memorial or tributes page.
Many popular social platforms also offer a way for you to plan what you want to happen to your account after your death. We encourage all social media users to add those settings to your pre-planning list. For some loved ones, your memorialized social presence may be a lasting connection to your legacy.
Below, you can find specific details on the features available on several social media platform:
Facebook has several options for memorializing accounts, honoring loved ones, setting legacy contacts or even removing an account. Below is an overview of the many options you have before and after death.
Option #1: Transitioning to a Memorialized Facebook Account
Transitioning an active account to a memorialized account allows friends and family members to continue using a person’s profile to share memories. Facebook reports that more than 30 million people view these memorialized profiles each month.
How Facebook Memorialized Accounts Work
At first glance, the most noticeable feature of a memorialized account is that the word “Remembering” appears before a person’s name. The account can only be updated by a designated legacy contact (more on that later), and the content on the profile will remain visible to its original audience. Depending on privacy settings, friends can also share memories on the memorialized timeline (more on that in the Tributes section below).
Reporting a Facebook Account to be Memorialized
Facebook provides a form that friends and family members can fill out to share information about an account that needs to be memorialized. This currently includes the person’s Facebook profile URL link, the date they passed and documentation of the death including an obituary link or death certificate.
Facebook Account Tributes Section
Facebook created a tributes section for memorialized accounts, which provides a separate tab on a person’s profile. This tributes section displays content posted by friends and family members after a person’s death. The update can help differentiate between a person’s original Facebook timeline and posts that were shared later by people who are remembering them.
Option #2: Removing the Account
If you prefer to have your account permanently deleted after you die, you can select that option using these instructions. Facebook also allows immediate family members to ask for a loved one’s account to be removed by submitting documents to verify their request.
Facebook Legacy Contacts
As mentioned above, each Facebook user can designate a legacy contact who will be responsible for their memorialized account after they die, which can include the ability to:
- Add a pinned post that will appear near the top of the person’s profile page.
- Update the profile and cover images.
- Change who can see or post tributes to the profile, remove tributes by others on the profile and change/remove tags for content that others share.
If a Twitter user dies, a person who is authorized to work on behalf of the estate or a verified immediate family member can request to have the account deactivated. They will be asked to provide information to verify that the request is legitimate. To learn more about submitting this type of request, click here.
google (and YouTube)
Google provides an option for immediate family members, legal representatives or executors to close the account of a deceased Google user. The process involves completing a form and submitting supporting documents that verify the validity of the request. Click here to learn more about this process, which also applies to YouTube accounts.
Google also allows users to plan for how they want their accounts to be managed. The Inactive Account Manager policy provides a way for users to share certain account data with a trusted contact.
LinkedIn allows people to report that a user is deceased and request to have their profile removed. The process is subject to review and requires requesters to provide information about the deceased user in addition to a link to their obituary. To learn more about LinkedIn’s procedures for removing an account after a user dies, click here.
Like Facebook, the image-based social media platform offers options to either delete or memorialize a person’s account after he or she dies. Memorialized accounts prevent people from logging in, but the content is still visible to the audience it was originally shared with. Click here to learn more about the options and verification process.
Family members can request to have a Pinterest user’s account deactivated. To submit a request, a family member should email the Pinterest user support team and provide details about the person (such as full name and account link), as well as documentation of the person’s death and relationship to the submitter of the request. For complete request requirements and contact details, click here.
If you own an Apple device, you can now set a Legacy Contact for your Apple ID. A Legacy Contact is someone you choose to have access to the data in your Apple account after your death. The contact won’t even need your Apple ID or an Apple device to be your Legacy Contact; they will just need your death certificate and the access key that you generated when you chose them as your Legacy Contact. Learn more from Apple here.
Changing or deleting a social media account after a person dies often requires family members to act. That’s why it’s important to ensure your loved ones are aware of your accounts and know if you would like them to be deleted or (where available) memorialized. Sharing these preferences, in addition to working with a reputable funeral home to create an advance funeral plan, will remove decision-making burdens from your family and help ensure your wishes are met.