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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
When someone dies, you will need to inform their pension provider. You may be able to claim from their pension depending on your loved one’s age, your relationship to them and the type of pension account that they held.
Accessing a State Pension should be done within the first 12 months after your loved one’s death. Often state pensions will stop being paid after the person dies, but in some cases a spouse or civil partner can inherit some of the pension.
What you get/how you claim depends on whether you reached State Pension age before or after 6 April 2016.
Accessing a Workplace Pension should be done within the first 12 months since your loved one’s death.
Defined contribution pensions, also known as a ‘money purchase’ scheme, allows an individual to build up a pension pot whilst in employment. This pot is used to pay out an income once they reach retirement age, based on how much the person and/or their employer contributed, and how much this pot has grown.
If your loved one had not yet retired, any beneficiaries can usually withdraw all the money as a lump sum and set up a guaranteed income (annuity), or set up a flexible retirement income (drawdown). This might not always be possible, so check the conditions of the pension.
Different tax rules apply when inheriting a defined contribution pension, and it depends on whether the person died before age 75.
A defined benefit pension pays an individual an income based on their salary, and how long they worked for their employer. These are less common, and tend to only apply to public sector or older workplace schemes. Each scheme is different, and any money paid out to any beneficiaries will be outlined in the rules of the pension scheme.
This type of pension often pays out a ‘dependant’s pension’ to anyone financially dependent on the deceased, including a spouse or civil partner, a partner the deceased wasn’t married to or in a civil partnership with, and/or child(ren) under 23. This payment is a percentage of what your loved one was getting, or would have received if they had not yet reached retirement age. This income is often taxable.
If the pension was a small amount, it can often be paid in a lump sum.
If your loved one had not retired:
If your loved one had retired:
If the total value of your loved one’s pension contributions is more than the lifetime allowance, you might have to pay tax on any money you inherit from this.
The lifetime allowance changes every year, but for the tax year 2021/22 it is currently £1,073,100.
One of the first administrative tasks is to notify the banks and building societies where your loved one held accounts. Most banks and building societies have a designated bereavement support customer service team, and they should explain the next steps to you once you’ve made the initial contact. The Death Notification Service covers most of the common banks and building societies in the UK – this is a useful tool to avoid having to contact multiple organisations.
In most cases, the banks and building societies will need to speak to the executor of a will, or the next-of-kin/administrator if your loved one died without leaving a will.
This is one of the first tasks you’ll need to complete. Once you have a death certificate, contact the bank or building society so they can temporarily freeze any payment in or out of the account. Joint bank accounts can continue to be used as normal. Any funds in the account can be used to pay for the funeral and probate fees or Inheritance Tax, if applicable.
We recommend using the Death Notification Service to start the process of notifying financial organisations. This service allows you to inform several banks and building societies of your loved one’s death at the same time. You just have to fill out one form and it will notify all the providers for you.
With new organisations being added regularly.
Helpful, but not mandatory, details include:
Head to the DNS Website: Death Notification Service
Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the yellow button that says ‘Submit Death Notification’ to begin. We recommend you create an account afterwards so you can add other accounts that you might have forgotten about at a later date.
Within 10 working days, you should receive instructions of what to do next from each of the individual financial organisations. For example, you may need to provide a copy of the death certificate.
The following organisations are not covered by the Death Notification Service. We have included links to the customer support team on their websites, so you can find the information to contact them yourself:
When notifying a bank or building society, make sure you have the following information to hand:
Notifying the insurance companies that your loved one held policies with is one of the first tasks to complete in the administrative process. Most providers have a designated bereavement support customer service team who should explain the next steps to you once you’ve made the initial contact.
In most cases, the insurance companies will need to speak to the executor of a will or the next-of-kin/administrator if your loved one died without leaving a will.
Ideally, you should notify insurers within a month of your loved one’s death once you have a death certificate.
Firstly, check their will (if they had one), their bank statements, or ask their solicitor (if they had one). You can also visit the Unclaimed Asset Register, which is a database of thousands of life insurance policies, unclaimed pensions, shares, dividends, dormant savings accounts and lottery winnings. It costs £25 to run a search for a life policy. Access it here: uar.co.uk
Contact the insurance provider to make them aware of your situation and to let them know you are going to make a claim. You will need:
If you cannot find all this information, call them with what you do have.
After the first contact about the claim, an assessor will let you know of any extra information or documents they need from you. They will probably ask for a copy of the death certificate, information from the doctor of the deceased, and/or legal documentation, depending on the type of policy and circumstances of the death.
Contact your loved one’s home insurance provider with the following information:
The insurer should then guide you through the next steps and advise you of any further details or documentation needed.
Contact your loved one’s car insurance provider with the following information:
If you’re a named driver on the car insurance policy, check with the insurers whether you’re still covered. If you are not, you will need to get a new policy in place.
Watch out – most policies terminate on the death of the main policy holder and this will leave the car uninsured. Ideally, the car should be parked in private parking instead of on the road.
The provider should then guide you through the next steps and advise you of any further details or documentation needed.
Notifying all the utility companies that your loved one held accounts with can be quite a long process. It might help to go through their documents and list all of the utilities you find letters from. For example, most people hold the following accounts: water, electricity and/or gas, phone, broadband, television packages, and subscription services.
Most providers have a designated bereavement support customer service team who should explain the next steps to you once you’ve reported the death.
In most cases, the utility companies will need to speak to the executor of a will or the next-of-kin/administrator if your loved one died without leaving a will.
Ideally, notifying utility companies should happen within the first few months of your loved one’s death, once you have a death certificate.
You will need to ask the utility company if you can change the lead name on the account. Occasionally, the company might ask you to create a new account in a new name depending upon its policy.
Your account will continue as normal as long as the joint payment bank account remains open.
Each provider has its own cancellation policies. In most cases, you will need to pay any outstanding balance or pay up until the end of a contract. If you are planning to sell the person’s property, we recommend keeping the utilities active (gas, water, electricity) and changing the account details into your own name.
You might decide to take their name off the utilities account but this can be done at a later date.
f you have already notified the bank of the death, your loved one’s bank account will probably be frozen. Therefore, you’ll need to contact the utilities company and arrange for payments to come from your account, to avoid any late payment fees.
Gather the information above and contact each utility company in turn to notify them of the death. Some have online forms you can use to make the process faster, but you can also contact them via telephone if you prefer.
The utility provider should then guide you through the next steps and tell you if they need any further details or documentation.