Dealing with a loved one’s social media accounts
Options for closing a loved one’s social media accounts
If you have access the the accounts, some families choose to leave them up with a posted obituary.
Instagram and Facebook offer the option of memorializing the account rather than closing it.
Most platforms, including these, will close the account if you send them the necessary documentation.
Think carefully about what your loved one would have wanted, and consult the rest of the family before deciding.
When a loved one passes away, you may be concerned about what to do with their accounts and profiles on social media. Some people choose to keep these profiles up as a kind of memorial, so that those who loved the person will have a place to see and post memories online. Others may decide that memorializing one’s page isn’t necessary, opting to delete the account instead.
Facebook, for example, offers a memorialization option, which allows people not only to look back at past photos and memories, but to continue to add to the page, giving people the opportunity to share what they loved about the person and respectfully recognize anniversaries and birthdays.
For some, this memorialization is a way to heal, while for others it can be a source of pain and a constant reminder of the loss. It’s hard to tell how you’re going to feel about it until you see the memorialized profile, so there’s no need to be hasty in your decision. Give yourself time to figure out how you want this handled. Ultimately, it’s up to you and your family how you want to deal with your loved one’s digital legacy, taking into consideration what you think they would have wanted.
A few years ago, Facebook began allowing users to assign a “legacy contact” to handle their account should they pass away. The legacy contact has the option to announce the death of the person in a post that they pin to the top of the profile. This pinned post can include specific memories, as well as information about memorial services. This way, distant friends and Internet acquaintances will be informed of the passing.
The legacy contact is also the one who makes decisions about the memorializing of the page, including who can post tributes and who can view them. They can delete any post they deem disrespectful or inappropriate, as well as update photos and remove tags. They can also choose to delete the profile altogether.
A Facebook legacy contact cannot, however, post as the person who has passed, read their messages, or make or remove any friends.
But not everyone has assigned a legacy contact on Facebook. If that’s the case, in order to either take down or preserve the person’s profile, you’ll have to supply documents to Facebook.
As with any social media account you’re looking to delete or memorialize, you will need to know your loved one’s username and the email they used for the account in order to gain access and fill out the necessary forms.
For Facebook, you’ll need a copy of the death certificate. This can be a scan or a photocopy; it doesn’t need to be the actual certificate. If you can’t send them this document, Facebook will accept other documentation proving that you have the authority to remove or memorialize the account: a copy of the will, letters testamentary appointing you as executor, your birth certificate proving your relationship, or power of attorney. You will also need to prove that your loved one has passed away, via an obituary or a memorial card. (If any of these documents contain either your loved one’s or your Social Security number, Facebook asks that you cover it up for safety and privacy reasons.)
If you have the proper documentation, Facebook makes the process of memorializing or deleting an account very easy. And if you initially decide that you want to memorialize your loved one’s Facebook page but change your mind in the future, you always have the option to delete the account entirely.
For some, memorialization is a way to heal, while for others it may be a source of pain.
It is a good idea to talk to loved ones and get their feedback before you make a final decision. Not everyone may feel a Facebook memorial is appropriate, and you want to take that into consideration.
A Facebook page that has been memorialized will have the word “Remembering” next to their name. In most cases, the legacy contact or family member managing the page will pin an announcement of the death to the top of the profile. Whatever settings or friends your loved one had, these remain the same. No one, no matter their relationship to the person, can log into the profile.
Profiles that have been memorialized won’t show up in ads, nor will they pop up as suggested friends. A reminder for their birthday each year will not appear either. Note that if you know your loved one’s passwords for their social media accounts, you can go in and post an announcement about their death if you feel comfortable doing so. However, you can’t memorialize their page from inside the account. You can, of course, delete the account if this is the route you and your family choose, but official memorialization, if the platform offers this option, must be done by contacting the organization with the appropriate documentation.
Like Facebook, Instagram also gives you the option to memorialize or delete a loved one’s account. According to Instagram, a family member or close friend can request that it be memorialized. The only document you’ll need is proof that your loved one has died; a link to an obituary or news article will do, or even a screenshot of this information. You will also need to know the approximate date of the person’s passing.
Once an Instagram account is memorialized, it’s frozen. The word “Remembering” will appear next to the person’s name, and even if you have access to the account, you won’t be able to upload or delete posts, nor can privacy settings be changed. If you want to change privacy settings or anything else before memorializing the account, you’ll have to contact Instagram with your request, as it’s against their policy to give out any login information.
Due to the sensitive nature of memorialized accounts, Instagram says that it takes steps to prevent the account from appearing in places that might be upsetting to friends and family. For example, the account is no longer searchable in Instagram’s Explore feature, as a means to protect the privacy of your loved one.
Although memorializing your loved one’s Instagram account can be a lovely way to remember them, there are things to take into consideration, especially if it’s a public memorialization. For instance, people are still able to leave comments on a memorialized page. If you find someone has written an offensive comment, you’ll have to contact Instagram and report it, meaning the comment isn’t immediately removed. It could take a few days before Instagram removes it, as they will decide if it goes against their community guidelines.
The thoughts and feelings of family members should be taken into consideration when deciding what to do with a loved one's social media account.
If you’d prefer to remove the account altogether rather than memorialize it, you have to be a “verified immediate family member,” according to Instagram’s rules. You can prove this by including with your request the birth certificate or death certificate of your loved one or documentation that states you are the executor or administrator of the person’s estate.
Although Facebook and Instagram are the most common, your loved one may also have accounts on platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn. Twitter doesn’t offer any kind of memorialization; you can either keep their Twitter account up or delete it. If you choose the latter, you’ll need to contact Twitter and submit a form with their name and Twitter handle, as well as a copy of the death certificate. You’ll also have to identify yourself and your relationship to the person. If further steps need to be taken on your part, Twitter will email you to let you know what you need to do next.
Like Facebook, LinkedIn allows you to choose a person in advance to handle your account should you die. However, if your loved one hasn’t chosen someone, then it falls to a family member or close friend. To delete a LinkedIn profile, you’ll need to fill out a form that includes the person’s name, the URL of their profile, their address, the last place they worked, the date of their death, and a link to an obituary. You will have to provide your relationship to the person as well as a digital signature. As long as all the information is correct, the account will be taken down in a couple of days.
If your loved one had other accounts like YouTube, TikTok, Reddit, Quora, or were active on any other platforms, you’ll be able to find instructions on each site or app as to what to do with their accounts. Each of these platforms will do its best, according to its policies, to honor your family’s wishes in regards to either saving or removing the accounts.
Although social media accounts may be the furthest from your mind when a loved one passes away—and in fact, some people never deal with them at all and just leave them up—if you know that your loved one would want these accounts either deleted or memorialized, then you may want to get to them as soon as you can. If the discussion never came up, then it’s up to you to decide how to proceed.
For some, there can be comfort in knowing their loved one’s social media accounts have been memorialized, so that those who loved them have a place online to visit them. Others may feel that the memories of their loved one’s belong in their hearts and minds rather than in bytes and pixels. It’s not an easy decision to make, especially on your own, so talk to your family about it.
If your loved one was very active on social media, you may decide that memorialization is the best way to honor them, even if not everyone in your family is in support of this. If your loved one wasn’t an active social media user, then the decision to delete their accounts might be easier. In either case, it’s not a decision to take lightly, and the thoughts and feelings of the family should be taken into consideration. You want to come to a conclusion that feels right for everyone involved.
You may be eligible for free bereavement support. Empathy can help with everything from funeral planning to estate administration, with step-by-step guidance and real-time expert support. Many people get free premium access to Empathy as a benefit with their life insurance claim. We partner with New York Life, Guardian Life Insurance Company, Bestow, Lemonade, and other leading carriers. When you make your life insurance claim, talk to your representative about whether Empathy is a benefit they offer.
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