Blog - What is Your Online Legacy?


Jessica Smith
Vice President
Director of Financial Planning

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Next Thursday, September 25th will mark one year since a dear friend, Marissa, and her unborn son lost their life in a car accident on Interstate 565. I remember the day vividly. I remember the shock and the sheer heartache that I felt when I thought of her husband and their 19-month-old little girl who had just lost the most important person in their lives. I was reminded again just recently when a mutual friend posted on Marissa’s Facebook page. I found myself scrolling through some of her old pictures, adoring the many pictures of her sweet baby girl, and laughing at a picture of her husband in a kilt at their wedding.  

It appears that Marissa’s husband had her Facebook profile memorialized. She brought so much joy to those around her that it only seems fitting to do so. However, not all such reminders are good. It can be painful, and at times, inappropriate as I was reminded when I read an article about Facebook recommending a deceased user as a “friend” to another user. 

What kind of online legacy will you leave? 

It is probably a question you haven’t given much consideration. Yet, if you die as a member of any social media site, it is a question someone will have to address, whether it is you now or your loved ones later. Social media sites struggle with what is the appropriate action and what they can do given privacy considerations. Here’s a list of a few sites and how they address the issue.

Facebook:

Facebook gives the deceased user’s family two options: the profile remains and is memorialized or the account can be closed. Family members cannot gain access to the content on a user’s profile once the user is formally reported as deceased to Facebook.

If family members decided to memorialize the account, the deceased user will not show up as a friend recommendation. To memorialize, Facebook requires a completed request form along with proof of the death (an obituary is sufficient).

Closing an account is a tougher process that requires more paperwork, including a birth certificate, death certificate and proof of authority.

LinkedIn:

You can report any deceased contact to LinkedIn by completing a form. You’ll need the username, company, email and you must have a link to the user’s profile.

Twitter:

Twitter will deactivate an account, but it does require several pieces of information to include: username, death certificate, a copy of the representative’s driver’s license, and a signed letter that includes your full name, address, email, relationship to the deceased and the action requested. A full list of instructions, including mailing directions, is found by clicking here.

Instagram:

Instagram simply requires the completion of a form and a death certificate to remove an account.

Google:

Google, which includes Google+, Gmail, and many other applications, has the most complicated procedure. They require a two-step process.

Step 1: You must provide your full name, address, e-mail address, a copy of your driver’s license, the Gmail address or Google username of the deceased individual, a death certificate, the header from an old email received from the deceased individual, and a letter of intent.

Step 2: Google will review the information (which may take months) and follow up letting you know if they can move forward. If so, they will require a court order. There may even be additional documents required.

Google readily admits that this process does not guarantee they will honor the request. For more details of the process, click here.

  1. Name an online personal representative to address your online accounts at your death.
  2. Talk about your wishes for these accounts. Do you want an account to serve as a memorial?
  3. Make a list of usernames and passwords for the representative. It will likely be much easier to just log into the account to make changes at your death.

I think Marissa’s life is being honored in a way in which she would approve. I, personally, am very thankful for the little reminder of the life she led.


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