By Jim Miller
Dear Savvy Senior,
How do I go about changing or canceling a person’s social media accounts when they die? My sister passed away several months ago and her social media accounts are still active.
I’m sorry for your loss. This a question that’s become more frequent in recent years as most Americans have participated on some type of social media platform. Here’s a run-down of how you can change or cancel some different social media accounts after a loved one dies.
Let’s start with the biggest and most frequently used social media platform on the web today. When someone with a Facebook profile dies, there are two different things someone with authority over their account can do. You can either “memorialize” it or “delete” it.
A memorialized account serves as a place where friends and family can share stories, photos or memories to celebrate the deceased person’s life, with the word “Remembering” shown next to the deceased person’s name. Once an account is memorialized, content the person shared is still visible on Facebook to the audience it was originally shared with, however, the user’s profile will not show up in public spaces such as people you may know, ads or birthday reminders.
If you don’t wish to memorialize your sister’s profile to stay private online, you can also have her account permanently deleted from Facebook.
Facebook allows users (when they’re alive) to choose a “legacy contact,” which is a person chosen to look after their account once they’ve passed away, or users can request to have their account permanently deleted after they die. (To do either of these tasks, click on “Settings” on the top right of Facebook, then click on “General” on the left-side menu and then on “Manage Account.”)
If your sister didn’t set up a legacy contact before she passed, you can submit a memorialization request at Facebook.com/help — type in “How do I report a deceased person on Facebook that needs to be memorialized?” in the search bar. You’ll be asked to provide proof of death by providing a copy of either an obituary, death certificate or memorial card.
Or, if you would rather have her account deleted, go to Facebook.com/help, and type in “How do I request the removal of a deceased family member’s Facebook account?” This also requires proof of death plus verification that you’re an immediate family member or executor of the account holder.
Instagram’s policy on a deceased users’ account is similar to its parent company, Facebook. A deceased users’ account can either be memorialized or removed, which you can request at Help.Instagram.com/264154560391256.
Like Facebook, to memorialize an Instagram account requires proof of death, but to remove an account you’ll also need to provide verification that you’re an immediate family member.
If your sister was a Twitter user, Twitter will work with anyone who is authorized to act on behalf of her estate, or with a verified immediate family member to have an account deactivated. To request the removal of your sister’s account, go to Help.Twitter.com/forms/privacy.
After you submit your request, Twitter will email you with instructions for providing more details, including information about the deceased, a copy of your ID, and a copy of the deceased’s death certificate.
If your sister also had a LinkedIn profile, the only option is to delete her account. To request this, see LinkedIn.com/help/linkedin/ask/ts-rdmlp. You’ll need to provide her name and URL to her LinkedIn profile; the relationship you have to her; her email address; date she passed away; link to an obituary; and company she most recently worked for.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.