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We are living under circumstances none of us could have predicted just a few months ago, and though we are all doing our best to abide by all regulations and social distancing protocols, life still does go on, regardless of the limits we currently have on our day-to-day lives.  Unfortunately, death is also a part of life and that is a reality we cannot afford to ignore.

Along with many of the other considerations to be addressed when a loved one passes, and usually in conjunction with the grieving process, it might seem that social media accounts may not be the main priority, but bear in mind that in certain cases keeping an account open after the death of a loved one can offer a risk to their cyber security.  Additionally, it can be incredibly painful to receive notifications of birthdays and anniversaries long after your family member has passed, so to this end, we have compiled a checklist for reference in the event of a loved one’s passing:

Facebook:

Facebook offers two options:  Delete the account or memorialize it. Bear in mind that if you decide to delete it, it is PERMANENT. All pictures and comments shared are permanently lost. We would advise you ask family before you decide to do this. Facebook will require proof of death documentation, as well as verification that you are an immediate family member.

The preferred choice is usually memorializing your loved one’s page. To do this, you simply fill out the Facebook Memorialization Request. It is important to note that you will need to provide proof of death documentation in order to initiate this process, this may be a scanned image of the death certificate, memorial card, a link to the obituary, or other documentation confirming that they have passed away. Facebook will add the word “Remembering” before the account holder’s name, as well as hide the page from Facebook search results and “people you may know”. Facebook will also stop all birthday reminders as well as anniversaries. People who have been friends will be able to post messages and comments on the timeline of the memorialized page.

Facebook offers the option to add a legacy contact to your account, allowing that person to make decisions about your account once it is memorialized. If you are set as a legacy contact on the account, you can post announcements on the page, update the profile and respond to comments, but cannot reply to private messages or add or delete any friends. Even in death, Facebook extends its privacy protection to your deceased loved one. Learn more about how to set a legacy contact for a Facebook account.

Instagram:

Instagram offers the same two options as Facebook:  Delete the account or memorialize it. Again, if you choose to delete it, this is permanent. It is best to discuss making this decision with family, since once the account is deleted, all the information associated with it will be lost. Instagram requires that you submit proof of death documentation such as a copy of the death certificate, the URL to the obituary or news article, as well as verification that you are an immediate family member. If you decide on this route, start with the Removal Request for Deceased Person on Instagram form.

If you chose to memorialize the Instagram account, you will need to submit a form with proof of death documentation. Once approved, Instagram adds the word “Remembering” before the account holder’s name. Memorialized accounts cannot be changed in any way, nothing can be added to existing posts, but others are able to tag the deceased in their posts. A memorialized account is hidden from Instagram’s public search option. To memorialize your loved one, start with the  Request to Memorialize a Deceased Person’s Instagram Account form.

LinkedIn:

Because LinkedIn is a more professional platform, it is recommended the account be completely closed. To do this, you need to provide your relationship with the deceased, their email address, date of their death, the most recent company they worked for, and a link to an obituary or other proof of death documentation. This may seem cumbersome, but your loved one’s digital footprint should be minimized to protect against identify theft, so it is worth doing. Request removal of a deceased member’s LinkedIn profile here.

Twitter:

This is also an account we recommend you close once your loved one is deceased. You must be an immediate family member (and offer proof of this) or the executor of the estate and provide a death certificate and a copy of your driver’s license if you are the one requesting the account be deleted.  Twitter will not, under any circumstances, allow access to an account after the owner’s death. The process can be started here.

Social media has changed the way in which we grieve and remember those who have passed. When a loved one dies, what was once their digital footprint becomes part of their digital legacy. Since social media is often the first place we learn of someone’s death, we can help ourselves and our family and friends with closure and offer comfort by assuming a responsible guardianship of our loved one’s digital legacy.  Think about how you would like to handle this for yourself. We spend so much time on social media that this is a worthy conversation to have with your immediate family; another item to carefully plan which we never imagined 20 short years ago. With social media being such an integral part of our everyday lives, we should also consider how to protect and preserve our digital legacy.


At Beckman Schmalzle Georgelas & Ross PLC people matter. Whether it is a divorce, child custody, estate planning, personal injury or criminal defense, we believe that the most successful attorneys are those that recognize how much the people that they are working for matter. Contact us for an appointment today!