Removing the Online Identities of Those Who Have Passed On

Whenever I’m on Facebook or LinkedIn, I find it very unsettling to see birthday or job anniversary reminders for friends and family members who have passed on.

I imagine this can be just as disturbing for families that are going through the grieving process after the death of a loved one. While there are certainly more important matters for them to deal with after the death of a parent, sibling or close relative, at some point someone needs to take ownership of deleting the deceased’s online accounts. This isn’t a task you should leave to an executor, who may move this to their bottom of their to-do list.

Ideally, the deceased documented all of their user names and passwords (and stored them in a secure location) and provided instructions for accessing them upon their death. If you have this information, you may be able to delete these accounts yourself.

If you don’t, you’ll have to contact online companies to request the closure of these accounts.

When you’re prioritizing which accounts to close, you should start with those that present the most risk, such as Amazon, Ebay, Paypal or other transactional accounts that may have links to the deceased’s bank or credit card accounts. Identity thieves routinely read death notices and then attempt to hack these now-inactive accounts, knowing that the account owner is no longer around to monitor their activities.

From there you may want to request the deletion of the deceased’s social media accounts.

What you need to start the deletion process

The easiest way to get instructions for closing any online account is to Google “How do I close a deceased person's [name of company] account?” Make sure the search result you choose links to content on the site itself, rather than to a third-party site, whose information may be incorrect or outdated.

Different sites have different requirements to close these accounts, but most require one or more forms of documentation to prove the death of the member and verify your authority to request the closure.  At the very least, you should have the following information ready when you initiate this process:

  • The deceased’s user names (this may be different than their actual name).
  • The URLs of the deceased's profile pages.
  • The email address associated with each online account.
  • The date of their death.
  • Their most recent employer (for LinkedIn).
  • A scanned image or PDF version of their death certificate. For some sites, this alone is enough documentation. Some sites also accept a link to an online death notice or a scanned version of a printed death notice or obituary.

Most sites require you to prove that you have the legal authority to make this request. Be ready to provide scanned images or PDF versions of any of the following:

  • Your marriage license, if your spouse is the deceased.
  • Your birth certificate, if the deceased was a parent.
  • Your spouse’s last will and testament.
  • A document giving you power of attorney.
  • An estate letter.

Removing social media profiles

Below are specific instructions for removing deceased members from the three most commonly used social media platforms.

Facebook

To request the removal of a deceased family member:

  1. Click on the arrow or other icon in the upper right hand corner of your Facebook screen.
  2. Choose “Help & Support” from the dropdown menu.
  3. In the Search field at the top of the Help Center page, enter “remove deceased family member.”
  4. Choose “How do I request the removal of a deceased family member's Facebook account?” from the list of results.

This page will give you instructions on what you’ll need to do.

You’ll need to provide the user’s Facebook name and a link to their profile. For documentation, Facebook will accept a scanned image or PDF of a death certificate as proof of death. If you don’t have this, they will accept a scanned obituary or memorial card plus proof of your authority to make the request. This can include image or PDF versions of a power of attorney document, last will and testament, estate letter or birth certificate.

Facebook also offers the option to memorialize a deceased member. This status allows friends and family members to post tributes to the deceased. You can also assign yourself or someone else as a legacy contact who will have control over this page.

LinkedIn

To request the removal of a loved one from LinkedIn:

  1. Click on the “Me” link at the top of any screen.
  2. Choose “Help” from the dropdown menu.
  3. Enter “Remove Deceased Member” in the search field of the popup “Help” window.
  4. Click on “Deceased LinkedIn Member” from the search results.
  5. Click on the “Profile Remove Form” link.

For documentation, LinkedIn requires you to provide the member’s name, date of death, email address associated with the account, their user profile URL, the name of the last company they worked for, your relation to them, and a link to an online death notice. You can also attach additional documentation, such as a scanned death certificate.

Twitter

To remove a Twitter member:

  1. Click “More” from the left-side navigation list.
  2. Click “Help Center.”
  3. Enter “Remove deceased member” in the search field.
  4. Click on the “How to contact Twitter about a deceased family member's account” link in the search results.
  5. Click on the “Request the removal of a deceased user's account” link.

After you fill out the form, Twitter will ask you to provide a scanned version of a personal ID (to prove that your request is legitimate) and a scanned copy of the deceased’s death certificate.

Removing incapacitated members

You can generally use these same forms to request the removal of members who are physically or mentally incapacitated. The documentation requirements are different. They usually require proof of the user’s condition and your authority to make the request. Most accept documentation of your status as guardian, such as a power of attorney or court order, and a letter or document from a physician or medical facility that explains the user’s condition.

 

This material has been provided for general informational purposes only.  Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, always follow the instructions on the sites themselves, since their requirements may change over time.

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This article was authored by Dan Flanagan and Jeffrey Briskin. Dan is a financial advisor and Partner located at Canby Financial Advisors, 161 Worcester Road, Framingham, MA 01701. He offers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. He can be reached at 508.598.1082 or [email protected]  Jeffrey Briskin is Director of Marketing at Canby Financial Advisors.

 

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