What Happens to Your Facebook Account When You Die?
When we are making a Will, we know that we must think about our personal assets such as our house, money and possessions. However, have you ever stopped to think about what would happen to your social media accounts? Facebook has almost 1.8 billion users. You are most likely one of them. Have you thought about what happens to your Facebook account when you die? Even though many of us spend a great deal of time on Facebook, most people simply don’t think about what will happen to the account after they have died.
Facebook now gives you a number of options about what should happen to your account when you pass away. It is one of the most helpful of the social media networks in clarifying your choices. There are three choices you can make about what happens to your Facebook account when you die. You can simply delete the account, memorialize it or download the contents and then delete it. Just take some time to think about which option is the best for you. Once you have made your choice, Facebook has made it very easy for people to carry out their wishes.
The first option is to delete your Facebook account when you die. This will mean that you will lose all of the data from your account. It is likely that few people will want to take the option of deleting the account completely. Everything will disappear from your account, including all posts and photographs. Many family members and friends will most likely want to keep the account as something to remember you by. Facebook is not only a record of our lives, but also how other people interact with each other. This kind of online memory can be a comfort to people dealing with grief.
How to delete somebody’s Facebook account
Your family or executors must submit a request to have your account deleted. Facebook will need documentary evidence that the owner of the account has died and that you have the authority to deal with the account. Facebook will accept various forms of proof including a death certificate and a Will. The process is not difficult, but it may be time consuming. Your family and executors will most likely be dealing with many things. The added burden of having to deal with a Facebook account may not be one that you want to attribute to them. Fortunately, there are some other options that you can choose during your lifetime.
An easier way of dealing with your Facebook account is to appoint a “Legacy Contact”. This facility was set up in 2015 so that people could easily tackle the issue of what would happen to their Facebook account when they passed away. During your lifetime, you can appoint a Legacy Contact. This is someone who will can have limited access your account when you pass away. They can then easily delete the account or memorialize it. Always ask the person whom you want to appoint. As a matter of courtesy, you should always see if someone is happy to take on the role of Legacy Contact. You should make sure that the person that you appoint knows what your wishes are.
The Legacy Contact
The real advantage of the Legacy Contact is that you can deal with this very easily during your lifetime. It is a simple step to access your Facebook account and appoint someone. You can be proactive in helping your family and friends to be able to easily deal with your Facebook account when you die.
Your Legacy Contact can also download the data on your Facebook account and then delete it. This means that your photos, posts and profile would be saved, but your actual Facebook account would be deleted. This may be an option that you want to consider. Some family members and friends may find it upsetting for your account to remain on Facebook in memorialized form. This option would allow the photos and posts to live on, so that loved-ones can view them privately.
The person who you appoint as your Legacy Contact does not step into your shoes when you die. There are only a few things that they can do with your Facebook account when you die. Whoever you appoint can’t log in to your account. Your Legacy Contact cannot edit posts or delete any of your friends. They can accept new friend requests from people. Also, they can change your profile picture. Additionally, they can write a pinned post as a final message to your account.
The final option of what can happen to your Facebook account when you die is that it can be memorialized. If you choose this option there are several consequences. The only people who can see your timeline are confirmed friends and family. They are also the only ones who can leave posts on your timeline.
What Happens to a Business Page on Your Facebook Account When You Die?
We have so far discussed what happens to a personal Facebook account. However, many people have at least one Facebook Page in addition to their personal account. Facebook is an extremely effective way of promoting your business. You will need to think about what happens to your Facebook Pages when you die. You may well want your Facebook business page to continue after your death. Usually Facebook pages take a great deal of time, effort and expense to build up. You most likely do not want to lose this business asset. This should be thought of as a separate issue to how to deal with your personal Facebook presence. You may trust your siblings or children to deal with your personal account. However, you need to decide whether they are also up to the task of dealing with a business page.
Most Facebook pages link to your personal account. They are very easy to set up. If you created your Facebook page in this way it is relatively simple to plan for it to continue after your death. You can appoint an additional administrator for your Facebook business page. Once you have done this the other person is able to sign into your page through their own personal Facebook account. Obviously, it is important that you only give administrator privileges to someone that you trust. A Facebook business page can be a very valuable asset and you must be careful who you allow to access it.
Appointing multiple administrators
Another possibility is that you set up a freestanding Facebook page which is not linked to a personal account. This is not particularly likely, but it is a possibility. Why isn’t it likely? The most common reason is that if you have a personal account you must set up a Facebook page that links to that. Facebook does not allow people with personal accounts to set up a freestanding business page. The second reason is that freestanding pages have greater restrictions in what they allow their owners to do. There really is little incentive to set up a freestanding Facebook page. However, if you do have one there is still an easy way to deal with managing it after your death. When you set up your freestanding page you will have been asked to appoint additional administrators.
Always ask someone first, before you appoint them as an administrator of your Facebook page. Not only is it polite to ask if they agree, there is little point in naming someone as administrator if they do not know that they have this responsibility. They will most likely also need to know something about how to administer your page. You can leave instructions to them either privately or in your will about how you would like your page administered after you die. Make sure that it is someone who is appropriate and who is likely to understand how to operate a Facebook business page.
What if it happened today?
Our social media accounts and online presence will most likely live on long after we do. We all need to start thinking about the consequences of this. Thankfully Facebook has made it very simple to deal with your account after your death. All you need to do is take some time thinking about what you want to happen to your Facebook account when you die. It is then easy to put your decision into action and your Facebook legacy will live on.
With all of your digital assets and online accounts, you have to consider whether they are set up for somebody to take them over, if something were to happen to you today. Just like writing a Will, you probably feel that it’s a task that can wait until next week, next month or next year. But there is no harm in getting everything in place, just in case. You can use some of our tools like the Executor handbook within our MyLifeLocker service, our Digital Vault service or our posthumous messages service to ensure that the right information gets to the right people at the right time.
Tim Hewson is one of the founders of LegalWills.ca.
He has over 20 years of experience helping people to write their Will and other estate planning documents. He has been interviewed by many of the major news media outlets including CTV, Global News, The Toronto Star, and other leading Canadian publications. He has also contributed to a number of financial planning books.
Throughout his career, Tim has written extensively on the subject of Will writing and estate planning.
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