I recently got a Facebook message from my deceased father. You read that right … my deceased father. His Facebook account had been hacked seven years after he passed. Not only was this jarring to see so long after he had died, but it was also avoidable.
When my dad passed, I was inexperienced in losing a close family member and thinking about closing out his social media accounts was certainly the last thing on my mind. Flash forward to when I received that Facebook message, I still don’t believe it’s an immediate to-do after your families lose a loved one, but I do believe you should advise the families you work with to tackle it in the first month or so after losing a family member.
- Securing your lost loved one’s identity. If your families are like the old me, they may have had the same password for several accounts. So, what if my dad’s Facebook account login was the same for his bank login or his credit card login? The damage the hackers could cause is astounding. By closing down or memorializing their social media accounts, families are ensuring that no one can log in or access their loved one’s accounts ever again.
- Painful reminders. Without shutting down or memorializing accounts, there is a chance that your families will see things like work anniversary reminders for their lost loved ones. Loss is hard enough, without receiving random reminders of your loss from systems like LinkedIn.
- You could be leaving money on the table. While money management accounts like Venmo and Paypal are not technically social media, they are online accounts that many families I work with seem to forget about. And, what is shocking about this is that the families don’t realize their loved ones kept a balance on the account. If your families don’t go in and close this account and deposit money into bank accounts, they could be forgoing a large sum of money.
So how do you go about closing or memorializing these accounts? Each social media channel has its own way of doing this, and we share the process for the most common social media channels below. Typically, you will need things like your loved one’s username or the link to their account as well as a copy of a death certificate or obituary for each request. Click the links below to be directed to the archiving/shutdown process for each website.
- Facebook – With Facebook, you have two options: You can either memorialize the account or remove it completely. Memorializing allows the profile to stay up, along with the pictures of your loved one, but does not allow anyone to log into the account. Facebook will also allow you to assign a legacy contact who can access your account, if anything were to happen to you.
- Twitter – Twitter will allow you to close out a deceased loved one’s account by following their process.
- Instagram – Instagram, like Facebook, also allows you to memorialize or remove the account.
- LinkedIn – LinkedIn removes the account by following their process.
- Pinterest – Pinterest will close the account by following their process.
- Google Account (Gmail, Photos) – I caution on shutting down email accounts before you are certain you have all the information you need regarding your loved one’s accounts and other important information. Many people also forget about things like Google Photos, Google Docs, etc., which are linked to a Google account, and you will need to follow their process to request access to your loved one’s Google assets. And, once you have shut down the Google account of a loved one, all of the associated content is closed down as well. Google also has a feature called “inactive account user” that can be assigned to a family member in the event anything was to happen to you, which makes gaining access to Google assets after your loved one passes much more seamless.
- Paypal – Paypal is not necessarily a social media account but does have to do with online presence. Your lost loved one may have a balance left on their Paypal account, and you will need to follow Paypal’s lengthier process to access the funds.