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What to do with your loved one’s social media accounts when they die

Managing Accounts

Knowing what to do with a loved one’s social media accounts when a loved one dies can be tricky. Some find the ghostly notifications deeply upsetting, whilst others like to re-read old messages and posts to remind themselves of precious moments. Some people even use the direct messaging function as a way to write down the things they wish they had said whilst that person had been alive. 

There’s no right or wrong way to handle the online accounts of your loved one, but there are options. In this article, we’ll guide you through all the pros and cons of each choice, along with a step-by-step guide on how to take action for each account. 

Keep, delete or memorialise

A lot of social media accounts will give you three options: Keep the page as it is, delete the account altogether or turn the page into a memorial of your loved one. Each comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, and it’s wise to talk to other members of the family so you’re all comfortable with whatever you decide to do. 

Keep:

Some platforms such as Facebook will keep accounts open indefinitely, whilst others, such as Twitter, will automatically delete accounts after periods of inactivity (in the case of Twitter, this is six months). Keeping the account open allows you to avoid the issue altogether, but it can cause the platforms to send you notifications encouraging you to engage with them, or your loved one may be mistaken for being alive by old friends who may not have heard of their passing. 

Delete:

Deleting the account altogether means that they can’t be found online and old posts can’t be scrutinised by others. Deleting affords the deceased a certain level of privacy, but it will delete all of their posts, photos or messages, so doing this can prove painful to friends and family. 

Memorialising:

On the page, it becomes clear that the person has passed. On Facebook, for example, the phrase ‘Remembering’ is inserted before the person’s name, and it keeps all the person’s content on the page, whilst removing birthday reminders and taking them out of searches. Facebook even allows users to appoint ‘legacy contacts’. These are people who can take over the account once Facebook has been alerted, pin a message to the top of the page and allow the page to accept friend requests. The page effectively becomes a memorial book for people to post messages, which some can find very comforting. It can also be an effective way of letting a lot of people know about your loved one’s passing, especially if you’re having trouble tracking down old friends, or are finding the process of contacting old colleagues or acquaintances very painful.

Here, we cover the following social media accounts and what you can do with them when someone dies:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • WhatsApp
  • Snapchat
  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn

How to deal with a loved one’s Facebook account when they die

In this easy to follow step-by-step guide, we’ll show you how to contact Facebook and action whatever you have chosen. Any friend or family member connected with the deceased can do this. 

  1. Gather the deceased person’s full name on Facebook, their profile URL and a copy of their death certificate. 
  2. Complete this form: https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/228813257197480
  3. You can choose to have the account memorialised or deleted. 

How to deal with a loved one’s Twitter account when they die

Here, we’ll show you how to deactivate an account on Twitter. Twitter doesn’t currently allow you to memorialise a page like Facebook does. Also, it’s worth noting that Twitter will automatically deactivate an account after six months of inactivity. To deactivate a Twitter account, you must be a person authorised to act on behalf of the estate or a verified immediate family member. 

  1. Gather the deceased person’s full name on Twitter and their Twitter handle.
  2. Complete this form: https://help.twitter.com/en/forms/account-access/deactivate-or-close-account/deactivate-account-for-deceased 
  3. Twitter will email you instructions on how to send more detailed information to them. 
  4. Email Twitter information about the deceased, a copy of your ID and a copy of the death certificate. 

How to deal with a loved one’s Instagram account when they die

Instagram – like Facebook – will allow you to either memoralise or delete your loved one’s account. Once you’ve decided, you’ll need to run through the following steps:

  1. Gather the deceased’s full name, Instagram username, proof of death (e.g. aneg an obituary or news article) and the date they passed away. 
  2. Complete this form to memorialise the account: https://help.instagram.com/contact/452224988254813 
  3. To delete the account, you’ll also need to prove that you’re an immediate family member. To do this, you’ll need a copy of the deceased person’s birth certificate, their death certificate or proof of authority under local law that you are the lawful representative of the deceased person, or his/her estate. 
  4. Complete this form to delete the account: https://help.instagram.com/contact/1474899482730688 

How to deal with a loved one’s WhatsApp account when they die

With WhatsApp, you can only delete the account if you have access to the deceased person’s phone. It’s worth remembering that by deleting the account, you will delete all messages, voice notes and photos that have been sent between your loved one and their friends or family. A lot of special memories could be lost. If you choose to delete their account, follow the instructions below. 

  1. Open the WhatsApp app on the deceased person’s phone.
  2. Go to Settings. Select ‘Delete Account’. 
  3. Enter the deceased person’s number when asked. 
  4. If you wish, you can select your reason for deleting the account from the drop down menu. 
  5. Select ‘Delete my account’. 

How to deal with a loved one’s Snapchat account when they die

To delete a Snapchat account, you’ll need to know the username and password for the account. Anyone with these details can delete the account. 

  1. Log in to the account portal and type in the username and password of the account you’d like to delete. 
  2. The account will be deactivated for the first 30 days. 
  3. After that, the account, along with all the Snaps, Chats and Stories will be permanently deleted. 

How to deal with a loved one’s YouTube account when they die

YouTube only allows you to delete a YouTube account, and not to memorialise it. If your loved one was a content creator on YouTube, by deleting the account, you will delete all the videos they produced. It may be worth checking that you have these on other storage systems such as hard drives or cloud storage. To delete a YouTube account, you’ll need to be an immediate family member or a legal representative.

  1. Submit a request to delete the account by visiting this support page: https://support.google.com/accounts/troubleshooter/6357590?hl=en 
  2. Select ‘Close the account of a deceased user’.
  3. Enter their name, email address, details of a relative or legal representative, their date of death and a scan of your ID and a scan of their death certificate. 

How to deal with a loved one’s LinkedIn account when they die

LinkIn, like Facebook, has a function that allows you to nominate a legacy contact who can close their account if they know the person has passed away. If you know your loved one has done this, ask their legacy contact to enact this. If not, a close friend or family member can get in touch with LinkedIn to get the account deleted. Here’s how: 

  1. Gather the following information: The member name, the URL linked to their profile, your relationship to them, their email address, the date they passed away, their last place of employment and a link to their obituary or a relevant news article if possible. (If not, a scan of a death certificate can be used.)
  2. Complete this form to delete the account: https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/ask/ts-rdmlp

Finally…

Dealing with this particular area of death admin can be really hard. There are choices to make, you may end up negotiating or even arguing over family members over the best decision regarding these accounts and the paperwork required to get them closed can be tough to pull together. Here are our tips on how to make this process a little easier: 

  1. Find a good time to talk with other family members about what to do with each account. 
  2. Divide and conquer. If possible, split the accounts up between family members to deal with. 
  3. Give yourself time to cry and laugh over the memories stored there, and don’t rush yourself to get this done. Precious memories are often stored online, so try not to make any rash decisions over deleting things. 
  4. Take screenshots. If you can’t bear to keep accounts open, sceenshot your favourite posts or memories and store them safely in the cloud. 
  5. Know that what you’re feeling is normal. Having to close online accounts is a very new step in death admin, and something we’re all finding our way with. Reach out to others who are in the same boat, either by speaking to friends and family, or by joining one of Untangle’s weekly support groups or online events.