What to do with someone's social media accounts when they die
When a loved one dies, dealing with their social media accounts and emails might not be at the top of your priority list. However, you might find that turning to their social media accounts and scrolling through memories helps you to grieve.
Over time, you’ll probably want to make a decision about what to do with your loved one’s social media profiles and other online accounts, otherwise known as their digital legacy.
This guide will cover:
- What happens to online accounts when you die?
- How to delete social media accounts when someone dies
- How to memorialise social media accounts after a death
- How to manage email accounts after a death
When someone dies, there are three options for how you can deal with their digital legacy:
- Memorialise their accounts
- Delete their accounts
- Leave their accounts open
Before making a decision about what you would like to do, it’s worth checking whether your loved one left any instructions or requests about their online accounts. This can help you decide what to do.
Deleting your loved one’s accounts will permanently remove photographs and all of the information stored on social media.
Before you delete anything, talk to other family and friends. It’s important to make sure that everyone feels they are being heard, and are happy for the online life of your loved one to be deleted. Don’t worry, you should be able to log in and save what you want to before you delete the account.
To delete the accounts, you will need to:
- 1. Contact social media sites – to let sites know that the individual has passed away, you will need the following information:
- Their social media username
- Their email address
- Their full name
- Proof of death – a death certificate, obituary or death notice
- Proof of your identity – driver’s licence or passport
- Proof of your relationship with the deceased – a copy of the will if it names you as an administrator or beneficiary, or a birth or marriage certificate
- 2. Send a death certificate – you’ll need to send a copy of the death certificate to the social media site as confirmation.
- 3. Log in, and download or save everything you want to keep – you’ll need their username and password to do this. Ask a friend to help if you’re not sure how to log in, or if it’s too upsetting for you. If you can’t decide whether to keep something, save it anyway.
Please keep in mind that different social media accounts will need slightly different information to allow you to close a profile.
You might prefer to keep the deceased’s accounts active as a way of remembering them, and allowing those who knew and loved them to do the same.
When you memorialise a social media account, this changes the way that the profile works, making it clear to other social media users that the person is now deceased. For example, on Facebook, once a page has been memorialised, the platform will no longer send birthday notifications. This can help to avoid unnecessary distress for friends and family, while still allowing you to view photos and memories.
It’s important to note that not all social media platforms allow you to memorialise a person’s profile.
How to manage the following accounts after a death:
If you’re handling an individual’s Facebook account after they die, you’ll need to follow these steps to deal with it in the right way.
Who can contact Facebook, and what happens?
Your loved one might have chosen a family member or friend to be their legacy contact. This person must be at least 18 years old, and is then allowed to manage the deceased’s Facebook account, to an extent.
A legacy contact can:
- Change their profile and cover photos
- Respond to friend requests
- Pin tribute posts to their Facebook memorial page
- Request to remove the page
A legacy contact can't:
- Post as the deceased
- Send messages on their account
- Remove existing friends or send new friend requests
- Remove any posts, shared items or photos
- Add a new legacy contact
If there is no assigned legacy contact, you and your family will need to contact Facebook to find out what your options are. You can do this by filling out the request to memorialise form. Their profile will then become a Facebook memorial page. You might like to use this online space to pin tribute posts, for example on their birthday and other special occasions.
Twitter doesn’t currently allow profiles to be memorialised. This means that you have two options for managing your loved one’s profile; you can choose to leave it open as it is, or you can delete it.
Who can contact Twitter, and what happens?
If you would like to delete the account, an immediate family member or executor of the will should contact Twitter to tell them that the individual has died. Then, you’ll need to provide Twitter with the following information so that they can properly authorise the person’s account to be deactivated:
- Proof of death certificate
- Proof of your identification
- Deceased’s details
Remember that Twitter isn’t able to provide any family member or friend access to a user’s account after death, for security reasons.
Dealing with a person’s Instagram after death is similar to handling their Facebook profile. While it doesn’t have the legacy contact function, you can make their profile into an Instagram memorial page.
Who can contact Instagram, and what happens?
Only an immediate family member should contact Instagram to let them know a loved one has died, and request the account to be removed.
Once the request to memorialise their Instagram has been authorised, their account is frozen. No-one can add new posts, likes, tags or comments, nor can they send messages to or from the account. An Instagram memorial page is hidden from the ‘explore’ section and any other public spaces on Instagram.
LinkedIn doesn’t currently offer memorial pages. When a user passes away, you can either leave their account open as it is, or close it.
Who can contact LinkedIn, and what happens?
LinkedIn allows users to select a trusted person to manage and close their account when they die. If this role has been assigned to you, you’ll need to contact LinkedIn to notify them that the individual has died.
You will need to provide:
- Their member name
- The URL to their LinkedIn profile
- Your relationship to them
- Their email address
- The date they passed away
- Their last place of employment
Once you have filled out the form required by LinkedIn, they will review it and then contact you. If your loved one didn’t select a trusted person, you’ll need to decide who should contact LinkedIn, and then follow the steps above.
If the deceased still has an active WhatsApp account, you can delete it.
Who can contact WhatsApp, and what happens?
Deleting the deceased’s account will remove the individual from all of their WhatsApp groups. You can follow these steps to delete it:
- Open WhatsApp on the deceased’s phone
- Go into Settings, then Account
- Click ‘Delete My Account’
- Enter the phone number when prompted
- Select one of the drop-down reasons for closing the account, if you wish to
- Tap ‘Delete My Account’
Remember that once the WhatsApp account is deleted, you won’t be able to regain access to it. Deleting their membership doesn’t affect copies of information or messages that were sent by the individual to other users.
A Snapchat account is one of the quickest social media platforms to delete because it’s designed to be so quick and simple to use.
Who can contact Snapchat, and what happens?
Anyone can delete a user’s Snapchat account if they pass away, as long as you have the username and password. You’ll need to:
- Go to the Snapchat account portal
- Follow the instructions on the portal.
- Once you’ve done this, the account will be deactivated for 30 days
The account is now deactivated, and after 30 days, it will be automatically permanently deleted. During those 30 days, no other Snapchat user can interact with the deceased’s account.
Similar to Twitter and LinkedIn, Pinterest doesn’t offer memorial pages. You’ll need specific details to permanently remove someone’s profile from the platform.
Who can contact Pinterest, and what happens?
Anyone can deactivate a user’s Pinterest account if they have the right details. To delete a deceased’s Pinterest, you’ll need to send a delete request to ‘email@example.com’. You can send this email from any email account you choose. Make sure you include the following details:
- Your full name
- The full name and email address of the deceased’s Pinterest account
- A link to their Pinterest account – it will start with ‘pinterest.com/’, but if you don’t know it, you can search for their account
- Proof of death – death certificate or obituary
- Proof of your relationship to the deceased, if you’re not included in the obituary e.g. a family tree, or birth/marriage certificate
You can then send your email to notify Pinterest of the death of your loved one, and they will delete the account. Once this is complete, you won’t be able to re-gain access. Remember that if their Pinterest is linked to a Google, Facebook or Twitter account, you should deactivate their Pinterest before you delete the other social networks.
If your loved one has passed away and they had a YouTube account, you can either leave this open or choose to close it.
Who can contact YouTube, and what happens?
You’ll need to follow one of two processes, depending on whether you have access to their password.
If you know their password, you'll need to:
- Access their Google+ account – this will be linked to their YouTube
- Go to ‘Data tools’
- Click ‘Delete Google+ Profile and Features’
- Select the box at the bottom of the page
- Click ‘Remove selected services’
If you don't know their password, you'll need to:
- Visit Google’s support page
- Search to close a deceased user’s account
- Enter your loved one’s full name, email address and date of birth, when prompted
- Select whether you’re a relation to the deceased, or a legal representative
- Upload proof of identification, and proof of death
If your loved one had an email account, you’ll need to manage what happens to this after their death. To start, check which email service the deceased used because each company will have different processes for dealing with the person’s email.
We've includes guides for the most common email accounts below:
If someone dies and they had a Gmail account, you’ll need to contact Google to handle their account.
Who can contact Gmail, and what happens?
If the deceased was a Gmail user, you can either close the account, submit a request to receive any money on the email account, or obtain data from the account. You will need to fill out a form provided by Google, to let them know that the individual has died and you would like to go ahead with one of those options. When you submit the form, you’ll also need to provide a copy of the death certificate as proof of death. Once Google has reviewed your request, they will contact you to let you know whether your request has been accepted.
If the deceased used a Yahoo email account, you’ll need to report their death to the email service, so that the account can be closed.
Who can contact Yahoo, and what happens?
Anyone can contact Yahoo to report a loved one’s death, but you will need to provide the following:
- A letter asking to close the account
- Yahoo ID of the user – this will be the first part of their Yahoo email address, for example if their email address is ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’, their Yahoo ID will be ‘joebloggs1’
- Copy of death certificate
You can either fax, post or email this letter to Yahoo.
If the deceased person used Hotmail, Live, MSN or Outlook, you will need to contact Microsoft to close their account.
Who can contact Microsoft, and what happens?
As part of Microsoft’s ‘Next of Kin’ process, only family members that are next of kin can request to close a Microsoft account.
Once the request has been accepted, the next of kin will be posted a DVD with access to the following:
- Address book
- Messenger contact list
It’s important to remember that Microsoft cannot:
- Provide access to any login, password or email details
- Switch the account ownership to you as next of kin
- Change the deceased’s password
- Help with recovering an account or resetting a password
You’ll need to email Microsoft to request an account closure. In your email, make sure to include all the following information:
- An email address you’re happy to be contacted on
- Copy of the official death certificate – Microsoft can’t accept an obituary, interim death certificate or funeral director statement
- Proof of your identification, if you aren’t named in the will – e.g. marriage or birth certificate
- Your shipping address – so that Microsoft can post the DVD to you
- The type of computer you use, if you’d like to request a copy of the account’s contents, i.e. PC or Mac
You’ll also need all these details for the deceased:
- Full name
- Email address(es)
- Date of birth
- Country the deceased gave as their home address when signing up
- Estimated year the deceased opened their account
- Estimated time that the account was last accessed – this includes if you think there might have been suspicious activity on the account by another user, or if you have checked the account
You can email, fax or post the documentation to Microsoft. They aim to review and action your request within 48 working hours. It’s important to note that Microsoft will get rid of all documents received as part of the request once they’ve handled it, so only send copies of any information. You’ll be notified if your request has been unsuccessful.
Has someone passed away?
Your local Funeral Director will be able to arrange for your loved one to be collected and brought into their care at the soonest available time.
They'll guide you every step of the way, from the moment your loved one passes away to making all of the necessary funeral arrangements.
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