When a Loved One Dies: Managing Their Social Media
When a loved one passes away, what happens to their social media accounts?
The answer varies, depending on the policies of each social media platform. But generally, there are two options available to survivors of the deceased: Close the account permanently or keep it open and maintain it.
Almost every social media site posts their policies online for how to manage or close the account of a loved one who has died, and you’ll need to read those policies. But here are some things you should know that might make the process easier.
What happens if I do nothing?
Again, that depends on the social media platform. Some social media sites automatically close the account after a period of inactivity, while others require active steps to shut them down.
A Facebook account, for instance, will remain active until Facebook is notified otherwise. Twitter, on the other hand, will shut down the account after six months of inactivity.
Be aware that if you leave your loved one’s social media account active — what is sometimes referred to as a ghost account — there’s a good chance their name will pop up on someone’s suggested friend list, which can be awkward or sad and even seem disrespectful.
Did your loved one create a digital estate plan?
A digital estate plan lists a person’s digital assets and directs how are they to be handled after that person dies. Digital assets consist of anything that belongs to the person and is stored electronically, including social media accounts. (Digital assets include three main categories: 1) personal assets, such as photos, videos, music, documents, and information stored in the cloud; 2) computing hardware and electronics; and 3) online accounts, including email accounts, bank accounts, credit cards, virtual currencies, video gaming accounts, bills paid online from a checking account, etc.).
A digital estate plan also designates a digital executor and gives them access to usernames and passwords for social media accounts.
Each social media site has its own rules for dealing with death
Here’s where the legwork comes in. You need to go to each social media site and find out what their policies are for handling the accounts of the deceased. Typically, you’re going to need some official verification of death, such as a death certificate or an obituary, as well as documentation showing that you’re an immediate family member or have been designated as an executor.
Facebook also allows accounts of deceased persons to be memorialized. A memorialized account, according to Facebook, is “a place for friends and family to gather and share memories after a person has passed away.” On a memorialized account, the word “Remembering” is shown next to the person’s name on their profile. Friends can still share memories on the memorialized timeline, but memorialized profiles don’t appear in public spaces such as Facebook’s “People You May Know.”