Modern etiquette: What happens to my social media accounts if I die?

Facebook offers you the option to have your account deleted or "memorialised" in the event of your death.
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Facebook offers you the option to have your account deleted or "memorialised" in the event of your death.

I suspect few people give a trusted person all online account usernames and passwords, as this dilemma is certainly a new one.

It's vital to note that logging into someone else's accounts – even with permission – is against many social networks' terms and conditions. Giving somebody your logins is definitely the easiest way to deal with your "digital footprint" when you die, but this may violate privacy clauses you've agreed to.

If you do want to preventatively offer up all your logins and passwords to someone, you can use a secure service like Intel Security's Password Box.

Many social networks, however, have processes set up to deal with deaths, and most require a scanned copy of your death certificate to proceed.

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Facebook – which has around 8000 of its 1.65 billion users die every day – offers you the option to have your account deleted or "memorialised" in the event of your death. If you go with the memorial option, you can name a "legacy contact" who will share a final message on your behalf and respond to friend requests, but can't remove or change past posts or read private messages.

Instagram (owned by Facebook) has similar, although more limited, memorialisation functionality. Twitter has a much vaguer process and requires a person authorised to act on your estate's behalf, or a verified immediate family member, to contact the company and request account deactivation.

For Google services (including Gmail), you can set an "Inactivity Manager" which provides a specified person access to your emails and other contents after a period of inactivity, or, alternatively, deletes all data and emails after that period.

For any Apple accounts, such as iTunes, Apple will terminate your account upon receipt of your death certificate and all content – including credit, which is non-transferrable – will be deleted.

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As for rollover subscriptions accounts like Spotify Premium or Netflix, you'll have to contact customer service teams if you don't have login details in order to prevent being charged monthly for unused services.

Managing a digital footprint after someone's death isn't a fast or easy process. To prevent extra difficulties, it would pay to create a "social media will" (yes, that's a real thing!) in your estate planning documents the next time you sit down with your lawyer.

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