What Happens Your Social Media and Online Accounts When You Die?
Even if you have documented your end-of-life care wishes on a Think Ahead
form you might not have thought about your social media and online accounts. Closing, memorialising or gaining access to digital accounts after a loved one's death can be another administrative issue for family to manage when we die.
What is Digital Legacy?
Social Media accounts are a big part of how we express our identities and much of our lives are shared on social media and online platforms. The photos, blogs, posts and videos we share on social platforms will be left behind after we are gone. This is our digital legacy.
It’s becoming more common for the bereaved to turn to social media as a way of remembering someone who has died and to keep in contact with their community of grievers.
Unlike bank accounts or physical assets, Social Media and online accounts can be difficult for next of kin to access after your death. This can lead to accounts being unintentionally removed and data like photographs, videos and blog posts being lost.
Questions to ask yourself on Digital Legacy
- How many accounts do I have (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, itunes, GMail)
- How important is it to me that someone can access those accounts when I die and the profiles and posts still be visible?
- Does someone have passwords for your social media & online accounts ?
- Does someone know the passcode for your phone or your laptop?
- Would I like a family member or close friend to be my digital executor and look after these accounts after my death?
If you want your accounts to be accessible it is a good idea to take steps to make accounts accessible or assign legacy contacts now.
What to do on different platforms
Facebook allows you to Memorialise, Delete or assign a legacy contact
. If you delete the account it cant be reactivated and all data is lost. If you have the password you can download the archive before deleting or memorialising.
The 'legacy contact' feature allows someone to administer your account after you die. They can pin a post on your Timeline after your death. Designate your legacy contact by going to Security and clicking on 'Legacy Contact' and selecting one of your Facebook friends. Facebook will send a message to that person indicating you’ve selected them as your legacy contact. The contact will be notified only when your death has been reported to Facebook, and your account is memorialized. More on this process HERE
Google (for all google products including Gmail, Google docs, Google+ & YouTube, Blogger)
You can designate an Inactive Account manager
. This option is in the settings (personal info & privacy). Set the length of time of inactivity (3 months) assign up to 10 people to be notified. A message will be sent to inactive account managers. If the account is inactive and no inactive account managers have been set it may be deleted by google and all data lost. More details HERE
If you don’t have username and password to access the Twitter account, next of kin need to contact twitter to notify of death or incapacity. A form notifying of the death needs to be completed
along with details like; the relationship of the person notifying of death to the deceased or their estate, contact information, verification of the death (such as a link to an obituary). Twitter will not grant access to the account
once the account holder has died. More details HERE
Instagram will memorialise or delete the account
Apple (iCloud, iphone, ipad access)
Apple will not allow access to next of kin after death. Their terms of service include a Right of no survivorship
. Accounts are non-transferable and Apple ID rights and content access terminate on death. Apple will not unlock devices or provide access to data.
Yahoo have a right of no survivorship
. Petitions to access accounts after death are at the discretion of yahoo but provision of access is not policy and attempts to access data could require legal action. They state they will honour the original agreement with the account holder, so next of kin will not get access.
Details of Other Platforms and Accounts
The website Everplans, which provides resources to help people manage digital legacy has an A-Z listing of account closure details on a range of platforms and services. More details HERE
Tools for Managing Your Digital Estate
There are a number of sites that help you think about and assign digital executors to manage your digital legacy.
- Guidance and resources on digital asset management and assigning digital executors. Includes functions to designate executors and provide secure access to accounts.
- DeadSocial provides resources on and guides to administration of digital assets after death. It also provides comprehensive facilities to assign digital executors and to prepare for continued presence of your social media accounts after death including pre-scheduled messages. It provides a useful basic template for listing and provide details of access for social media and online accounts.
Digital Legacy Association (Uk)
- The Digital Legacy Association works with organisations delivering end-of-life care to encourage people to share their wishes in relation to their digital legacy. Their site provides frameworks, toolkits and resources on digital estate planning.
Last Update 04/03/2017