According to a by the Pew Research center, 68% of American adults have a Facebook account, 28% use Instagram and 21% are Twitter users. It is essential for individuals to consider what will happen to their accounts upon death.
Facebook and Instagram both provide two options for handling the account of a deceased individual. Under Facebook’s policy, an account can either be memorialized, or deactivated. If memorialization is chosen, once Facebook receives notice and proof of a person’s death, the account becomes a remembrance page, and account activity will be restricted.
Facebook also allows users to designate a “legacy contact,” a friend or family member who will have limited control over the maintenance of the deceased’s account. The legacy contact can do things like change the deceased user’s profile picture and accept friend requests, but cannot log into or modify the account. If no legacy contact is chosen, no one will be able to make any changes to the memorialized page.
Instagram has a slightly different process, and does not currently provide account holders the option to choose deactivation or to appoint a legacy contact. The site will memorialize a person’s account if a friend or family member requests the action and provides proof of death. A memorialized account is like a time capsule, and cannot be changed in any way. Instagram will also remove an account if an immediate family member, who must provide proof of his or her relationship to the deceased, makes such a request with evidence of the loved one’s passing.
Twitter does not offer account memorializations. When a user dies, “a verified family member,” or “a person authorized to act on behalf of the estate,” such as a personal representative or someone with power of attorney, may request to have the user’s account deactivated. The person will need to provide proof of identity and proof of the account holder’s death in order to begin the process.
The above are options provided by social media companies themselves, and may not be the only viable choices for the disposition of accounts. It is always a good idea to discuss any other possible alternatives with an experienced estate attorney.