Facebook has been a staple in nearly all of our lives for well over a decade. We've shared some of the biggest moments of our lives there, marked memories over the years with pictures from our days, kept connected to family, and may have even made close friends we wouldn't have otherwise met along the way.
While perhaps not as personal as our Facebook accounts, Instagram has become a huge part of our online activity. As a matter of fact, Instagram has over 1 billion active monthly users. Because we share so much of ourselves on social media, it only makes sense to keep them in mind when planning for the future.
You may be surprised to learn that your social media accounts have a place in your Estate Plan. To find out what can happen to your Facebook and Instagram accounts after death and what your options are, read on.
Your Facebook Account
What will happen to your Facebook account after you die? That depends. Facebook has a variety of ways they deal with the accounts of users who have passed away. Here's what they are and where to find them in your account settings:
A Facebook account is memorialized when Facebook becomes aware of a user's death. The only way this happens is if your next of kin, family, or friends submit evidence to Facebook of your passing. Valid evidence of one's passing can include a link to an obituary or news story.
After someone dies, their Facebook page almost immediately becomes a memorial to them. An online wake where their family and friends gather to share memories, warm words and pictures of good times spent together. Depending on your account's privacy settings, your loved ones can continue posting on your Facebook timeline and tagging you in posts on theirs.
Memorialized Facebook accounts have a "Remembering" designation at the top of the page, alerting visitors that the user has passed away. A memorialized profile no longer appears in public Facebook spaces, including birthday reminders and People You May Know. No one can log into a memorialized account, and memorialized accounts that don't have a Legacy Contact cannot be changed.
Naming a Legacy Contact to your Facebook account gives someone the power to manage your account after you're gone. Legacy Contacts can write new posts on your profile, such as a pinned post with information about a memorial service or sharing any last words you may have left behind.
A Legacy Contact can update your profile and cover photos, respond to new friend requests, change who can see posts that you are tagged in, and remove tags of you that someone else has posted, among other things. They also have the power to request the removal of your Facebook account.
Your Legacy Contact cannot:
Log in to your account
Read your private messages
Remove or change past posts or photos
Remove any of your friends or make new friend requests
Add a new Legacy Contact to your account
The option to add, change, or remove a Legacy Contact from your Facebook account is in your General Settings. To navigate there, select Settings & Privacy from the top menu, then Settings, and finally, Memorialization Settings. Type in a friend's name and click Add. Your Legacy Contact will receive a notification that you chose them to be your Legacy Contact and what that means for them. Only users who are 18 or older can select a Legacy Contact.
You may also choose to have your Facebook account permanently deleted after you pass away. If you have this option selected, all of your posts, photos, comments, reactions, and private messages will be immediately and permanently removed from Facebook once Facebook is made aware of your passing. This cannot be undone.
To request that your account be deleted after you pass away, navigate to your Memorialization Settings in your account's General Settings, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and click Delete After Death.
Sometimes, nothing happens to someone's Facebook account after they die. If no one tells Facebook that you passed away and no one contacts the company to memorialize or delete the account, it will stay active. Your page will remain unchanged, just as it was before your passing. No "Remembering" designation will appear at the top of your page. Your friends will still get a notification when it's your birthday, and you will still show up in People You May Know lists.
Your Instagram Account
Despite being owned by the same company, Instagram does not have the same range of options after a user's death. In the event of your passing, Instagram gives you two options for the future of your account:
An Instagram account is memorialized when a family member or friend submits a Request to Memorialize a Deceased Person's Instagram Account form. Memorialized Instagram accounts have the word "Remembering" next to the deceased person's name on their profile, alerting visitors that the user has passed away. Posts shared on the account, including photos and videos, stay on Instagram just as they were before you passed and are visible to the same audience they were shared with. Once an Instagram account has been memorialized, no one can make changes to its existing posts, profile information, or settings. No one can log into a memorialized account, and it will no longer appear in public Instagram spaces, like the Explore page.
According to Instagram's policy, your immediate family or next of kin can ultimately have the last say in what happens to your account after you die. Ultimately, an Instagram account will be permanently deleted when an immediate family member provides proof of death, including an obituary or death certificate.
Including Your Online Accounts in Your Estate Plan
In addition to your property and assets, you can also specify what should happen to your social media accounts after you die in your Will. Social media, online business accounts, loyalty and rewards programs, and online shopping accounts make up the digital assets named in most Wills.
Even if you think you've covered your last wishes via your account settings, other aspects of your online life may be affected. For instance, pages managed by a sole administrator are removed from Facebook after that administrator's account is memorialized. To ensure that your Facebook pages remain on the site after your death, consider adding a second administrator that you trust to take over.
When you create or update an existing Will with Trust & Will, you will be able to list your digital assets, including your social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram, and specify what should happen to them after your death.
Will the Executor of your Estate be responsible for memorializing or closing your accounts? Have you named a Legacy Contact for your Facebook account? Are they the same person? These are just some of the questions you will answer when creating a Will online. Get started now!