Facebook has over 2 billion active users throughout the world and many people use it to share pictures, personal thoughts, and other content. But after a loved one’s death, you may not know what to do with their Facebook account.
I’m going to discuss 4 options for Facebook accounts – including 2 options available to the living and 2 options after an individual dies. I should mention that Facebook is always changing various policies – so the details I discuss may change at any time. But you can always search in the Facebook Help Section to find the most updated information.
1) Designating a “Legacy Contact”
There are two options for designating what will happen to your own Facebook account before you die. One option is to designate someone as your “legacy contact.” You might think of this as your Facebook “emergency contact person”. This person will have control of your account after proving to Facebook that you have died.
To create a legacy contact for your Facebook account, Log in to Facebook and go to the upper right corner and click on the triangle or the three lines. You should see a “settings” option. If you don’t see a settings option, you can simply type in: www.facebook.com/settings and it will take you to your Facebook settings (or click on the link).
Go to your general account settings, choose “Manage Account” or it may be listed as “Account Ownership and Control” and you should see an option for “Your Legacy Contact”. This must be a person who has a Facebook account and is currently a Facebook friend. Just type their Facebook name into the window and it will automatically find the friend. It will then send them a notification that they are your legacy contact. This provides them with access to your Facebook account after Facebook has proof that you have died. This only works when you plan ahead and designate a legacy contact.
2) Deleting Your Own Facebook Account Upon Your Death
In the same place where you choose a legacy contact, you can also choose to have your account deleted. The way this works is when someone notified Facebook that you have died, then your account will be permanently deleted. Personally, I’m not a big fan of this option. There are so many situations where your surviving friends and family get so much support from the pictures and memories that may be on your Facebook profile. I would encourage you to choose a legacy contact and let your surviving family and other loved ones decide what to do with your Facebook profile. They may want to download some special pictures or use the content in other ways.
3) Memorializing a Facebook Page of a Deceased Loved One
If you’re in the situation where a loved one has already died and they have not chosen a legacy contact for their Facebook profile – you have two options. You can either memorialize their Facebook profile or your can have it deleted.
To memorialize their Facebook profile, the first step is to contact Facebook and complete a form. It’s always possible that they may change the location of this form so you may have to search to find the current form. You will enter their name as it is listed on their Facebook profile, provide the approximate date of death, and then provide a link to an obituary or some other proof of death. You can also choose to upload a document that is proof of their death like a death certificate. After Facebook processes the request and is satisfied with the documentation, then the profile will change to be listed as “Remembering” in front of their name.
Memorializing a profile will cause several other changes in functioning. First, the page cannot be logged into – so it will prevent someone from taking over the account and using it. Facebook will stop sending birthday reminders to the person’s Facebook friends. It may be possible for others to share memories on the memorialized page, but this depends on the settings for the memorialized page. I’ve included a link that shows what a memorialized page looks like. The example I’ve chosen is a page for memorializing a young lady named Rebecca.
4) Request Removal a Loved One’s Facebook Account After Their Death
The other option that survivors have is to completely delete their loved one’s Facebook profile. Deleting your loved one’s Facebook account requires 2 things. First you have to have proof of authority – which means that you’re an immediate family member or someone who has the authority to ask that their account be deleted as well as proof of their death. The other thing you’ll need is proof of their death. View the form to see the various forms of proof that you are an immediate family member and proof of their death. (Note that you can also request to delete a Facebook Account for a loved one who is “medically incapacitated.”)
My recommendation is that after the death of a loved one, to have a conversation about what you would want to do as a family. Generally speaking, I would advise against deleting the account -which also deletes the page and the pictures. If you don’t want people posting any memories on the page, you can remove that option when you memorialize an account. One reason to keep it is that you never know when you’ll want to review the pictures or other items on the profile. Also remember that even if you may not want to remember your loved one through their Facebook account, it may be a very important source of remembrance and comfort for other family members and friends.
Having said that, you may have very good reasons for completely deleting the account. I would encourage you to make sure that you have some agreement within the family before deleting the account and making sure everyone has had a chance to download any pictures they might not have access to anywhere else. Generally speaking, once Facebook has approved the deletion of an account, the content on the account or profile is gone.
If your loved one has recently died, I’m so sorry that you need this information. If you choose to memorialize their Facebook profile, I hope that you find it to be a way to remember them and eventually find it to be a source of comfort.