This is something that is rarely thought of or spoken about at the moment, probably because social media isn’t so commonly used amongst the current older generation, but in a few decades it will become increasingly common to know about how to deal with your social media accounts in preparation for your death.
Nowadays, so much of our life is online, so what’s going to happen to all that stuff after we die?
Things like birthday wishes, pictures of your food and the odd rant about how the XFactor is fixed aren’t quite what we’re referring to, but instead the treasured things, such as photographs and videos with loved ones.
People used to simply film footage on camcorders, print photo albums and keep diaries; all things which included physical material and paper, which nowadays would seem like an ancient method of keeping memories. This was, however, not even a generation ago!
In contrast, it’s all very different in 2018. We have data storage like clouds, we have passwords protecting everything and sometimes only a specific fingerprint can access things.
Once you die, and these things become inaccessible, what on Earth happens to it all?
Some people argue to keep social media and email accounts open and accessible forever, while others acknowledge the issues regarding personal and confidential information which people may not want others to have access to.
Social media websites have different procedures and options which help you deal with what happens to your accounts when you pass away.
Within Facebook, you have two options; delete your account or memorialise your account. You can either decide in advance or nominate a certain person as a ‘legacy contact’ who can deal with the account. Within the privacy rules of Facebook, the only things that can be seen are things the user has chosen to share; not even the legacy contact can see more than this. So, it is possible to keep private messages completely private if you wish.
To memorialise a Facebook account when someone dies will keep the account active but nobody will be able to log into it. Also, it will no longer be searchable, accept new friends, nor appear in the ‘people you may know’ section. It will say ‘remembering’ next to the name and is a good way for people to share memories. Furthermore, people will be able to see existing posts and photos that the deceased has shared with friends.
To delete a Facebook account when someone dies, you will need to provide a copy of the death certificate as well as evidence that you have authority to request the removal of the account, such as the Will or the estate letter. You can also use a birth certificate to prove that you are the next of kin.
To delete an account after someone dies: Go to Settings – Security – Legacy Contact – request account deletion.
With Twitter, a form must be completed reporting the death of a user in order to deactivate the account. On the form, you will have to provide the username, the death certificate, proof of your identity and relationship with the person who has died. Unlike Facebook, nobody can be given access to a Twitter account after a death, for privacy reasons.
Instagram – Deactivate or memorialise an account, like Facebook.
LinkedIn – can close an account if they have basic personal information, a link to their obituary, and the name of the company they most recently worked for.
Google – You can use Google’s Inactive Account Manager to choose what you would like to be doe with your account after you die or are no longer able to use them. This includes adding trusted contacts.
iTunes – music files are not owned, they are licensed. Therefore, when you die, the license goes with you. However, if login details were known, Apple does allow switching accounts.
If I have the passwords, can I just log in to the accounts?
If you have given your login details to someone you trust, they could simply log in to your accounts, in theory. However, the moment you sign up to social media accounts, you agree to their terms and conditions which may include strict privacy policies regarding access to personal and private information.
It is a violation of Facebook’s policies to log in to someone else’s account, even if they have informally given you the login details, so you are in danger of breaking the law if you do just log in.
Tips for making sure your social media accounts are looked after properly when you die:
- Make a list of your social media accounts and specify what you would like to be done with them, and inform a trusted person where your ‘digital assets’ are located.
- Listing intentions and wishes in your Will is OK, but do not mention passwords because your Will becomes a public record once it goes to probate. Therefore, it is best to highlight any login details in a separate document alongside the Will, if you wish to do so.
- If you have photos and videos on your social media accounts, make sure they are backed up. The best way to back these up without requiring a password for access is by using a memory stick, rather than something like iCloud which is password protected.