Social media is only twenty-four years old, yet somehow it’s managed to transform everything: from the way we connect with family or friends to how businesses reach their audiences.
At one time seen as the domain of young people, now there are 3.96 billion social media users worldwide with an average of 8.6 accounts each. All are ageing and some are passing away, yet none of the major platforms seem to have perfected how to handle our online digital legacies.
Whether you want to leave a final message or freeze or delete your accounts when you pass away is a highly personal decision. However, once you do, there are online legal will companies that can help you get your wishes in order. In this article, we’ll discuss the options and show you how to plan for your social media accounts after death.
You’ll be forgiven if you’ve never thought about your social media legacy. It’s a 21st-century problem! Still, without a plan, you’ll have no say in what happens to your posts, comments, images, and videos. Social media is a record of your life, to some extent, so it’s worth considering.
Right now, there’s no single protocol for managing social media after death. Each platform has its own policies, requirements, and options. In this section, we’ll look at what happens to social media accounts after death on some of the top platforms.
Facebook is the largest social media network in the world with more than 2.7 billion active monthly users. Of course, there are also a lot of “inactive” users, and that number is growing by the day. In fact, a 2019 study by Oxford researchers looked at the future of Facebook accounts and came to a fascinating conclusion. At the current rate of growth (and death), there could be 4.9 billion deceased people with accounts on the platform by 2100. With no new growth, the dead might outnumber the living by 2070!
So, what happens to all those accounts? You can have your Facebook account deleted upon your death—as long as you set it up while you’re alive. Currently, when you’re logged into your account, you can go to the Privacy section and explore the Memorialization settings, where there’s an option to request full account deletion upon your passing.
In the same place, you can name your legacy contact — a person you task with managing your account after you die. They have full editorial control, which means they can write posts, delete posts, update photos, and even request that your account be deleted.
Accounts without a legacy contact and not marked for automatic deletion become memorialized, which means the content remains visible to the audience with which it was originally shared. The word “Remembering” appears next to your name on Facebook.
Instagram has a memorialization function like its parent company, Facebook, but it’s not activated automatically. Your account can be memorialized by request. Note that the person who makes the request must show proof of death like an obituary or article.
A family member can also request that your account be entirely removed, but Instagram requires the birth and death certificate, or proof of authority over the deceased’s estate.
In no case does Instagram provide login credentials, so if your wish is to have someone take over your account with full editorial ability, your best bet is to share your password now.
When you die, your Twitter account lives on, unless a family member or authorized person requests that it be deactivated. To make the request, they must supply a death certificate. There is no option to take over account access so, as with Instagram, you should share your passwords with a legacy contact if you want them to be able to tweet from your profile.
TikTok’s policy for the accounts of deceased people is unclear. Some report the ability to deactivate a deceased person’s account on request but we weren’t able to confirm this. Your best bet for your TikTok account is to select a legacy contact and supply them with your passwords and your wishes. That way, they can take over or delete your account when you pass away.
As YouTube accounts are typically connected to a Google profile, you can use the Inactive Account Manager to make decisions about who to notify and what to share (or if the account should be deleted) after a period of inactivity that you specify. If you don’t set this up beforehand, your immediate family members or an authorized representative can request to obtain data from your account or deactivate it altogether, but they’ll have to verify their identity and provide a copy of your death certificate.
One way that Canadians are taking control of their end-of-life wishes is through online legal wills. These are an inexpensive and easy way to assign their assets—including digital ones. Read our comprehensive guide to estate planning before you get started.
Online wills are a relatively new service in Canada but they’re filling a growing need. Like some other online will companies, Epilogue helps you prepare wills, power of attorney documents, and affidavits of execution, but they really stand out for their free Social Media Will.
In about 20 minutes, you can document how your posts live will on (or don’t) after you die. Founded by estate lawyers, Epilogue will help you create a legally binding document so you can feel as secure about who inherits your Instagram account as who inherits your investments. And it’s free!
But while you’re at it, creating an online will that covers your asset distribution, power of attorney, and last wishes is a good idea. Everyone needs a legal will, otherwise, you’re leaving your loved ones with a heavy burden to deal with after you’ve passed on. Explore our top picks for online will providers to learn more.
All of this brings up the question: Why would I care about this if I’m dead?
It’s a fair question, and some people might not have strong feelings about it. For many others, though, social media is important in the way that a diary or photographs are important; they are a record of a life lived. In these cases, it’s wise to ensure that your family or friends have any access you might wish.
Alternatively, you might feel strongly that you don’t want any of that material to be publicly available any longer in which case it’s crucial that you make the appropriate arrangements.
There’s another lesser-known consideration to take into account: identity theft. An insufficiently protected account could be hacked. From there, an intruder could potentially mine everything from your email address to your name, birthday, and image. And while this might not concern you (after all, you’d be dead, right?), it could cause massive headaches for your survivors.
Whatever your wishes, it’s ultimately really important to be proactive about what you want to happen with your social media accounts after death.
Your social media accounts are probably pretty low on the list of things you think you need to think about when it comes to end-of-life planning. But consider this: your posts, pictures, and even comments on other people’s posts make up a detailed picture of one part of your life. Your family and friends might want to remember you by visiting your page, or perhaps you’d prefer to delete that material after you die.
Whatever your final wishes are, you can be proactive now by visiting your accounts and selecting the best settings, or you can simplify the process with a free Social Media Will. Whatever you decide, there are tools for managing your social media after death.