Recent research for Simply Dead showed that one of the practical issues relatives face when a loved one dies, is accessing their digital legacy.   A fact not surprising given many people probably haven’t even considered what happens to their profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram when they die.   Gone are the days when it was just a matter of handing down cherished photo albums, a music collection or a box of mementos to your relatives.  Today much of our life is chronicled and curated online.

So, what are the options for our social media accounts when we die?    This blog looks specifically at Facebook.

Before you decide what you want to happen to your Facebook profile after you’ve died, it’s probably worth taking a back-up copy of it now.    The Digital Legacy Association has a handy guide explaining how to do it here  https://digitallegacyassociation.org/how-to-download-your-facebook-data-and-pass-it-on-to-your-next-of-kin/

 Setting up a “Legacy Contact” in General Account Settings > Manage Account

A legacy contact is someone you choose to look after your account if it’s memorialized (see below). Once your account is memorialized, your legacy contact can:

  • Write a pinned post for your profile (eg. to share a final message on your behalf or provide information about a memorial service)
  • Respond to new friend requests (eg. old friends or family members who weren’t yet on Facebook)
  • Update your profile picture and cover photo
  • You also have the option to allow your legacy contact to download a copy of what you’ve shared on Facebook.

The things your legacy contact can’t do are:

  • Log into your account
  • Remove or change past posts, photos and other things shared on your Timeline
  • Read messages you’ve sent to other friends
  • Remove any of your friends

Please note that you must be aged 18 or older to select a legacy contact.

Request that your Facebook account becomes “Memorialised”

You can’t memorialize your own Facebook account. If you would like your Facebook account to become memorialized after your death you can state your wishes using your Facebook legacy contact (above)

Memorialized accounts cannot be modified in any way.  However, depending on the privacy settings of the deceased person’s account, friends can share memories on the memorialized Timeline and send private messages to the deceased’s account.

Any content the deceased person shared (eg. photos, posts) will remain on Facebook and visible to the audience it was shared with.

Even if you have the password for a deceased person’s memorialised account you will not have access or be able to view their private messages.

 To Delete A Facebook Account

Every Facebook user can delete their own account (whilst alive) or request that it is deleted upon their death.

Before deciding to delete a Facebook account or requesting that your account be deleted it is worth thinking through the implications it may have on those left behind.  Facebook is increasingly being used as part of the remembrance and mourning process and access to photos and memories may provide comfort for friends and relatives.

To find further information about deleting the account of someone who has died click here

To find out more information about deleting your own account click here

You are also able to request that your account is deleted when assigning a Legacy Contact (as shown above)

Further guidance on dealing with your Digital Legacy can be found at www.digitallegacyassociation.org

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