What Happens to Your Social Media Accounts When You Die

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Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram may not be top of mind when you think about funeral planning, but people leave behind increasingly massive digital footprints when they die. And what happens to those thousands of posted photos, tweets, comments, and videos varies both by the social media platform and by whether someone’s created a digital estate plan in advance.

If you die and your loved ones do nothing, the accounts may be deleted due to inactivity eventually. But in the meantime, loved ones may see periodic updates (like, when your birthday rolls around) and friends and family who didn’t know of your death may post to your account or send messages that are left unanswered.

Some social media platforms now give users the opportunity to select what they want to happen to their accounts after death. Others live on until your immediate family requests the account to be deactivated. Here’s how your options vary, from one social media site to the next:

Facebook

The king of social media platforms gives its users the option to set up in advance what they want to do with their account in the event of their death. Users can either choose to memorialize their accounts or have them permanently deleted.  If you choose the former, Facebook allows you to choose a “legacy contact” who can act as an administrator and share funeral information, post a tribute, respond to new friend requests, or request the removal of your account. However, they can’t remove or change your past posts or anything on your timeline, or read your messages.

If you don’t set up in a plan in advance, then anyone can request that your page be memorialized after your death (by filling out an online form and submitting the name, approximate date of death, and link to an online obituary). That may sound like it has the same net result, but there are subtle differences: Without a legacy contact in place, no one is allowed to post on behalf of the account, and no one can control what friends may post to the page or request that the page be deleted entirely.

Google Accounts

Like Facebook, Google allows users the option to set up arrangements now for what happens to their accounts upon death. If you have a legacy plan in place and Google detects a prolonged absence of activity from an account, the account is then either deleted or user information shared with a designated individual. Without these early arrangements in place, the deceased’s loved ones can contact Google to close the account or request its data. But it’s up to Google’s discretion to release that information.

Instagram

Unlike Facebook and Google, Instagram doesn’t give you advance control over what should happen with your account upon death. Instead, the photo-sharing network allows family or friends to either memorialize or remove their loved one’s account, once they notify Instagram of the death. While a news article or an obituary will suffice to memorialize an account, a verified immediate family member must submit proof, like a death certificate to close the account.  

Twitter

This social media network doesn’t allow you to decide in advance what you’d like to have happen to your account after death, and it also doesn’t have an option in place to memorialize or freeze an account. Instead, immediate family members or those authorized on behalf of the deceased’s estate can request to delete the account. Or, after about six months of inactivity, the account may deleted automatically. (Though Twitter is a little fuzzy on exact timelines, it states that any account may be deleted after six months of non-use.)

For loved ones who don’t want to let the Twitter account languish until it’s deleted, you can proactively delete the account by providing:

  • The username or handle of the Twitter user
  • A copy of their death certificate
  • A copy of your government-issued ID
  • A signed statement that includes their name, email address, relationship to the user, deactivation request, and evidence that the account belongs to the deceased

LinkedIn

This is another social media network that doesn’t allow users to establish a legacy plan ahead of time and doesn’t allow accounts to be memorialized. Instead, any friend, family member or colleague can request that an account be deleted after death.

To request an account be deleted, you’ll need to provide:

  • The deceased person’s name
  • The URL of the LinkedIn profile
  • The company he or she last worked for
  • Your relationship to the person
  • The date of death and a link to the obituary
  • The deceased person’s email address

Pinterest

There’s no way to memorialize a Pinterest account, and you don’t have the option ahead of time to signal that you’d like your account deleted after death. Instead, a family member will have contact Pinterest to request that your account be deleted.

If you’re making such a request, you’ll be asked to provide:

  • Your full name
  • The full name and email address of the deceased
  • A link to his or her Pinterest account
  • Proof of death, such as an obituary, death certificate, or news article
  • Documentation showing that you have a relationship with the deceased, such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate, family or household records, or family tree. If your name appears in the obituary, that’s generally sufficient proof.
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