Digital Estate Management: Why you need to plan your Social Media Accounts

Maybe it hasn’t happened to you yet but inevitably it will: a notification on LinkedIn for a deceased friend or colleague’s anniversary. A pop-up on your wall on Facebook that involves a loved-one that has passed away. Social Media accounts are so prevalent today that these awkward moments are happening more and more frequently. Estimates are that there are 30 million Facebook accounts that have outlived their owners. Managing these accounts are one step in managing your digital estate.

The easiest thing to do is to just shut down the account but, it’s not always that easy! The rules and options differ from account to account, some allowing you to deactivate accounts, some allowing you to create memorial accounts. Many require death certificates and other legal paperwork to change anything on the accounts. By planning ahead as much as possible, or knowing your options, this transition will be much easier.


FacebookDigital Estate Management

When a Facebook user passes away, a living relative can notify Facebook via an email through their Help Center. Once the death is confirmed via a death certificate or an obituary, Facebook will add “Remembering” above the deceased’s user name, creating a remembrance wall. A Legacy Contact can be chosen prior to the person’s death.  This person is in control of the wall just as a normal Facebook account, except the Legacy Contact cannot delete anything from prior to the person’s death. Facebook users can also choose to have their account deleted after their death. These options are available in the security setting in Settings.


Google Accounts

Google accounts, including YouTube and Gmail, will be automatically deactivated after nine months of inactivity. There is an “Inactive Account Manager” option that allows for transfer of the account to a designated person. If this option has not been used, an immediate family member can ask for the account to be made inactive and/or for some of the contents of the account, via an online form.



Anyone can notify Instagram of someone’s passing but only an immediate family member can ask that an account be removed after someone is deceased. Instagram will turn the current account into a memorial if that is the wishes of those asking, via an online form. If the account is memorialized, only those it had been previously shared with will be able to view it. If the account is asked to be removed, a different form must be filled out, along with a death certificate, birth certificate, or other proof of authority.



Only a person that is authorized to speak on behalf of the deceased’s behalf can ask to deactivate this account. Twitter’s Online Privacy form is filled out and they follow up with an email asking for more information to verify the account.



LinkedIn provides for family and co-workers and friends to let them know that someone has passed, and to be deleted. This is done via an online form that includes all the LinkedIn profile information and an uploaded copy of the obituary. Deleting the account means deleting the profile and along with it all the profile endorsements, connections, and recommendations.


Apple iCloud

Apple has no rights of survivorship which means the Apple ID is non-transferable. A family member may provide a death certificate and they will close the account.


Dealing with a passing and a physical estate is tough enough. Plan and take care of your digital estates if possible, of make a notation in your will. We live in a time that it is necessary for the loved one we leave behind and for the digital legacy that people will remember us for in the future.