Death is one of the few things that is certain whether it is expected or not. While there are things in place such as preparation of wills to assist family members in those difficult times, there are also steps that can be taken from a social media perspective to manage your accounts when you or someone you know is no longer here.
Timing is the first challenge for families in dealing with social media accounts of a loved one who has passed. Addressing the matter too soon can just add to the pain while leaving the decision for too long can appear almost neglectful. There probably is no ideal time to delete someone’s social media account after they have passed or remove them from a family Whatsapp chat or equivalent. What you don’t want to do is wait too long as you may not want any unexpected birthday or memory reminders from a deceased person’s social media account weeks, months or even years after a person has died.
Acting on behalf of someone who has passed can be a very sensitive issue and many can take offence if they are not consulted, especially if they believe they are the ones who should have that responsibility. If you have doubts that you are not the only one who should be involved in making the decision to delete or memorialize someone’s social media accounts, then first have that conversation with all those involved.
Before you decide to contact any of the social media platforms for the memorializing or deletion of a social media account, note that they would require a close family member or someone authorized to act on behalf of the deceased. A death certificate will most likely be required so it is best to leave this process up to those persons who will have access to such.
Most social media platforms have features enabled to deal with someone’s passing, some of which you can enable now, which would only make it easier for your loved ones to handle when that time comes.
Social Media Will Template
Writing a will for your social media accounts seems odd but it can assist your family members to deal with your social media accounts on your passing. This document identifies the social media platforms you have an account with along your username (password optional). It is meant to let you know what you would like to have done with your social media account upon passing. The Digital LEgacy Association provides a Social Media Will Template free to download and use.
Direct Computer Access
If you have access to a computer / mobile phone that a person may have used to login to the various social media platforms then taking over the accounts though this method would be one of the easiest ways to have the account deleted or memorialized. If however you aren’t able to access any of those accounts then some of the major social media platforms have outlined steps to help with this process.
Twitter will work with any person authorized to act on behalf of the estate, or with a verified immediate family member of the deceased to have an account deactivated.
The person making the request will need to first fill out this form.
After the request is submitted, twitter will email you with instructions for providing more details, including information about the deceased, a copy of your ID, and a copy of the deceased’s death certificate. This is required to prevent false and/or unauthorized reports.
Facebook provides a few options for dealing with a deceased person’s account.
A legacy contact is someone who has been identified prior to a person’s death, to manage their Facebook account after it has been Memorialized.
Memorializing a Facebook Account
Whether a Legacy Contact has been assigned or not, you can request that Facebook memorialize an account. Memorializing an account means that the account will still be available however the word ‘Remembering’ will show next to the persons name. The account will not show up in friend requests, people you know or other event related activities such as birthday reminders etc.
Request your account to be deleted after death
You can choose to have your account permanently deleted should you pass away. This means that when someone lets us know that you’ve passed away, all of your messages, photos, posts, comments, reactions and info will be immediately and permanently removed from Facebook. You can manage this option in the Memorializing settings in Facebook.
Deleting a Facebook account of a person who dies
If the deceased did not complete any of the steps above before they died, you can still request the deletion of a Facebook account on their passing. You will need to have proper documentation to prove the same before anything can be done.
Instagram provides two options for dealing with a deceased person’s account in similar fashion to what is done with Facebook.
Memorialize an Instagram Account
Instagram will allow your account to be memorialized with a similar set of guidelines for that of Facebook.
Remove / Delete an Instagram Account
You can also request the deletion of an Instagram account upon the passing of a person.
At the time of writing this article, LinkedIn only supported the removal of a deceased person’s account on their passing. Note that you will need to have a LinkedIn account to be able to complete this process.
At the time of writing this article, Pinterest only supported an email method of handling the account of a person on their passing. The instructions are as follows:
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the following information:
- Your full name
- The full name and email address on this person’s account
- A link to their Pinterest account (ex: pinterest.com/USERNAME). If you don’t know this, try searching for it on https://pinterest.com/all/
- Documentation of their passing (ex: death certificate, obituary, news article)
- Your relationship to the person with documentation to verify it, like:
- Birth or marriage certificate
- Public mention of relation
- Family/household records
- Notarized proof of relation
- If your name is included in the obituary, that’s sufficient
Note: If the Pinterest account is connected to a Google, Facebook, or Twitter account then you should deactivate the Pinterest account before deleting the Google/Facebook/Twitter account.
Snapchat will allow anyone acting on behalf to delete the account of a person who passed away once they can provide proof of the person’s passing. As with all other platforms before, you need to have a copy of the death certificate to complete this activity.
Google makes allowances to manage all of your Google apps associated with your Google Account. This would be applications such as email, youtube, adwords etc.
Like Facebook, Google has a feature called Inactive Account Manager which essentially allows you to grant access to another Google user to manage your accounts after long periods of inactivity.
Microsoft has quite a few options to handle all Microsoft related apps upon the passing of a person. They do provide support whether you have access to the Microsoft related account or not. It is referred to as the Next of Kin Process and you can read up more about it here.
Apple makes it clear that your Account is non-transferable and that any rights to your Apple ID or Content within your Account terminate upon your death. Upon receipt of a copy of a death certificate the Account may be terminated and all Content within your Account deleted. This is listed under No Right of Survivorship in Apple’s terms and agreement contract.
That being said, it may still be worthwhile to contact Apple and work on terminating the account so as to stop any automated billing that may be set up on the account. If that proves unsuccessful, you can try calling their main support number: 1-800-275-2273
Whatsapp and other chat Groups
Deleting a deceased person’s Whatsapp account can only happen if you have access to the phone which the account was registered on. Whatsapp doesn’t provide any sort of additional facility for dealing with a deceased person’s account.
The other matter that has to be addressed however can sometimes be more difficult than just deleting an account and this is removing the deceased person from Whatsapp Group Chats.
Whether it’s a personal or professional based group, removing that person will be difficult. This is particularly the case if the persons relatives are also members of the group. It may be perceived by some other members in the group of being harsh or thoughtless if another one removes the deceased person.
There isn’t a wrong or right way to address this situation but here are some suggestions that could be followed.
- If not done already, provide admin access to the person closest to the deceased as ultimately it should be that person who removes them from the group
- Regardless of the group, one person, whether it’s the admin or otherwise should bring up at some point the matter of removing the person from the group needs to be addressed. This is a tough call but is something that needs to be done.
- On occasions such as birthdays and or anniversaries, some members of the group may attempt to wish the deceased person best wishes. While it might provide solace to some, to others it may resurface a grief that might have finally begun to fade away. This is extremely sensitive and should be avoided at all costs.
- Ultimately, the deceased person account needs to be removed as leaving it in the group may cause more harm than good.
Subscriptions & PayPal
Some of the aforementioned accounts may have payment subscriptions which would continue to be deducted if the accounts remain active and also if the previously authorised Payment methods remain active.
Terminating the Credit Cards of the deceased would be the first course of action to take however, you may also need to terminate the PayPal account as that account may have credit which is not directly tied to or accessible by a bank only.
Commenting on a deceased person’s timeline
Failing to address the removal or memorialization of a deceased person’s account can have a more negative impact than a positive one. While some who may be very close to the deceased is attempting to deal with the pain and hurt of losing a loved one, others may not necessarily feel that pain and may unknowingly bring more grief to the family if they may write a post or comment on the timeline.
It becomes even more unbearable if the deceased person’s account shows up in a ‘people you may know’ feature or in a birthday reminder or even in ‘know for years’ preview on Facebook for example.
If someone cannot come to terms with deleting the account then the process of memorializing a deceased person’s account takes into consideration all of the above and allows a read only view of their account. This saves the account for viewing only but removes it from all reminder features and will stay so until a request is made to have it completely removed.
As I conclude, I must say that in no way is this article meant to trivialize the process or dealing with social media accounts for a person who has passed. It is however meant to show that there are things in place by most of the major social media platforms to deal with this and that there are even steps which can be taken while you are alive to make this process easier for your loved ones whenever that time comes.1