Posted by Michelle Young, Will Writing & Estate Planning Expert
Most people have some aspect of their life online, whether that’s photos and posts on social media, correspondence on emails, or online bank accounts. Find out how to make it easy for your family and friends to manage these in your place after you pass away.
These days, it is more and more common for important personal information to be stored online, protected by security keys and passwords, including social media accounts, banking, emails and credit accounts. This makes things a lot more secure but, after you pass away, it can cause problems.
Don’t worry though, this blog should help you easily arrange a plan for your digital afterlife, so your relatives or friends don’t have to jump through hoops to sort things out for you.
One way to prepare for this is by creating a Digital Will, or Social Media Will, that details all your accounts and logins, as well as what you would like to happen to them after your passing. This could be included as part of your Will or passed onto your loved one separately.
With so many of us using at least one or two social media sites, it is important that these accounts and details are available, or at least known, to your friends or relatives after your death. Here we will detail the different processes available for some of the main social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Google.
It is key to mention that although it may seem simpler to give a friend or relative your login details for all accounts and let them delete the accounts themselves after your death, it can actually go against the privacy policies of the social media site for another person to log into your account. Therefore, the processes we outline are a much safer way of conducting the closure of accounts.
There are three options available when considering the closure of a Facebook account. The first two options can be actioned by relatives after your death; they can either contact Facebook to delete the account, or they can ask for it to become a memorial page. They will need to fill out a Special Request for a Deceased Person’s Account form for both options.
With both options, Facebook will need a few documents from the relative who is closing down or memorialising the account. They will need to present verification that they are indeed related to you, or an executor, and also a scan of the death certificate. If they are memorialising the page instead of deleting it, an obituary, memorial card or other documentation detailing the death can be presented as proof instead.
The other option available, which can be actioned while you are alive, is to designate a Legacy Contact on your Facebook account. You can select a family member or friend to be your Legacy Contact giving them access to your account after your death. They are then able to carry out your wishes for your profile to either be used as a memorial page, or be deleted, and manage the profile from their own account.
The process of deleting a Twitter account after death is a lot more straightforward. Your friend or relative will just need to fill in a form, which will ask for your account’s username, death certificate and proof of their relationship to you.
The deletion of an account on LinkedIn works very similarly to Twitter’s process since this form needs to be completed. In the form, your relative or friend will need to detail your name, LinkedIn profile URL, their relationship to you, your email address, the date of death, a link to an obituary and the last company that you worked at. Details such as the URL or your email address may not be known by your relative or friend, so these would be important details to include in a Social Media Will.
The option for Instagram accounts after death is very similar to the memorialisation option for Facebook. Once your relative or friend has completed a form and provided the necessary documentation, the account can be memorialised – meaning that the posts on the account are visible to the audiences they were shared with but the account cannot be logged into, the details of the account can’t be changed, and the account will not appear in the explore spaces. Accounts can also be deleted if preferred.
Closing a Google account can be done through Google’s Inactive Account Manager. This can be used for you to set parameters, while you are alive, for what will happen to the account when you die, such as when Google should consider your account inactive, who should be notified of this change, and whether your account should be deleted.
If this has not been set up, a relative can make a request for a deceased person’s account to be closed, as long as they provide the necessary proof of relationship and death.
Many banks will allow a relative to call their customer services or bereavement team to notify the bank that you have died. All details will be included on your bank’s website, so you can add these details to your Digital Will. Some banks may offer an online form that can be filled in by a relative to inform them of your death.
We have already detailed above how a Google account can be closed, but if you are with another email provider, there may be different steps. The best way to approach this element of online accounting is to provide your email address or addresses if you have multiple accounts, and passwords in your Digital Will so that your relatives or friends can access the accounts and close them manually.
Online services, such as Amazon, Netflix and other retail sites will also be accessed using passwords and email addresses. It is important not to forget these, especially since some might have access to bank account information that needs to be removed or addresses that need to be deleted.
Make a list of the websites you have accounts for, or are subscribed to, along with the email address used to access it and the password you use for it, so that a relative or friend will be able to find out how to contact, close or delete the account from the website itself by logging into your account.
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