Most of us have at least one social media account. With COVID-19 forcing us all into lockdown at various times over the past few years, we have used social media as a way to keep in touch more than ever before. But what happens to our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts when we die? How do our loved ones access them? Can they access them? Now that we have more of an online presence than previously, it is worth thinking about these questions before the inevitable happens.
It is important to know that what happens to your social media account depends on the type of social media account that you have. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach here. All of the providers have different policies on the subject. Here is some information on some of the main social media accounts as a guide.
Once Facebook become aware that you have died, their policy is to memorialise your account. Memorialised accounts are a place for friends and family to gather and share memories after a person has passed away. Memorialising an account also keeps it secure by preventing anyone from logging in to it.
If you want your account to be deleted, then you can appoint a legacy contact via your Facebook account. Your legacy contact can either memorialise your account or remove it.
If you don’t appoint a legacy contact but you want your account removed after you die, then your loved ones will need to provide proof of your death along with other documents proving that they have authority to deal with your account, before Facebook will take action.
Facebook owns Instagram, so their requirements are very similar to those of Facebook. Once Instagram learns of your passing, they will memorialise your account and the word ‘remembering’ will be shown next to your name on your profile.
Once an Instagram account is memorialised, no one can make any changes to your account’s existing posts or information.
Snapchat’s policy is rather simple. Once they have received a copy of your death certificate (presumably not snapchatted to them) then they delete your account.
Twitter won’t provide access to your account to anyone, regardless of their relationship to you. Your only option is to have your account deactivated.
Twitter will work with a person authorised to act on behalf of your estate (such as an executor) or with a verified immediate family member to deactivate your account. Only after receiving a copy of your death certificate and other information about you will they proceed to deactivate your account.
LinkedIn have a policy which allows your loved ones to report that you are deceased and to request that your account be memorialised.
Reporting your death involves providing LinkedIn with some key information, such as your full name, LinkedIn profile link/URL and a link to your obituary.
LinkedIn require almost as much information as financial institutions to memorialise an account. They need copies of your death certificate, Letters of Administration (if you died without leaving a Will) or a Grant of Probate (if you did leave a Will), or a court order appointing someone as executor of your estate.
TikTok are the newest player to enter the social media game. Unfortunately, the new kid on the block also doesn’t have a policy for memorialising or deleting your account after you die. The only action that can be taken is to delete your account. The problem is that you can’t delete a TikTok account without the password.
If you have a TikTok account, that means that you will need to either delete your account ahead of time (which is not always going to be possible) or leave instructions for the executor of your Will to delete your account for you.
A few tips
It is a good idea to plan ahead for your social media accounts and get to know what each provider’s policy is for your account when you die. You can make the situation easier for your loved ones by:
- Creating a legacy contact for each account.
- Making sure that your legacy contact knows what you want to have happen to your account, i.e. whether you want it to be memorialised or deleted.
- Making sure that the executor of your Will knows how to access your account. This will be particularly important if you have an account that does not enable you to appoint a legacy contact.
- Making a list of your accounts with usernames and passwords and storing them securely with your Will.
By taking some time now and making a plan for your social media accounts, you can prevent a difficult situation arising for your loved ones.