Is Your Digital Life Ready for Your Death?

The Growing Importance of Digital Estate Planning (Part 2 of 2)

Let’s get started by reviewing end-of-life planning and guidelines for discontinuing the accounts of a loved one. For our purposes today we’ll discuss the most popular .

When individuals pass suddenly or if they haven’t outlined their wishes for terminating a social media account, each of the major social media channels will typically request legal documentation in order to begin the closure process (check out this helpful infographic from Mashable).

However, this is a very new area and each of these sites is in its infancy in terms of putting together policies.  We have heard of heartbreaking stories of people who have put all of their photos on Facebook and haven’t provided anyone with their password. Upon their passing, Facebook was not able to give the family access to the account and all of the photos were lost.

Here’s a quick run down of what is required when discontinuing a social media account:

  • Facebook: Facebook has two options for what to do with a deceased family member’s account.
    • Memorializing a Profile: This feature allows the account to be viewed but not edited (with the exception of a Legacy Contact now being allowed to make one final post, usually regarding funeral arrangements, etc.)
    • Terminating an Account: An individual can deactivate a profile by completing Special Request for Deceased Person’s Account; it is necessary to provide your relationship as well as a copy of the individual’s death certificate, the deceased person’s birth certificate, or proof of authority.
  • LinkedIn: You have two options to handle a deceased person’s account.
    • If you have the password of the individual, you may follow LinkedIn’s instructions to simply close the account. 
    • However, if you do not, there is a process to terminate the account that requires you to provide certain information about the deceased person.
    • Who Can Do It: In LinkedIn’s case, it doesn’t need to be an immediate family member to terminate an account. It can be any one of the following: Immediate family (spouse, parent, sibling, child), extended family (grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin), non-family (friend, co-worker, classmate).
  • Twitter: Twitter will work with the estate or immediate family members to remove an account.
    • What is needed: Fax Twitter copies of the death certificate and your government-issued ID (such as a driver’s license), along with a signed, notarized statement and either a link to an online obituary or a copy of the obituary from a local paper.
    • Who can do it: A verified immediate family member of the deceased or a person authorized to act on the behalf of the estate.
  • YouTube: Since YouTube is owned by Google, you need to reference the policies on Google’s site. Google has a process in place for immediate family members and representatives. It provides for a number of options, including closing the account and requesting funds from the account.

Keep in mind that social media accounts often change their policies and it’s important to revisit procedures even after you’ve had a conversation about terminating a person’s digital assets.



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