Dying Matters: What to do with a Facebook account after someone dies?

Engineering photo from Facebook media gallery newsroom

Engineering photo from Facebook media gallery newsroom

Updated for 2020

For many, Facebook has been a place to share content but more often now it’s also become a place to honour people who are no longer with us.

In 2015, Facebook introduced the Legacy Contact system to users. Initially only available to people in the US, Facebook’s Legacy Contact allows you to select a friend or family member who will look after your account when you pass away.

Once someone lets Facebook know that a loved one has passed away, they will be able to memorialize the account (see the image below with the request form):

Memorialization-request on Facebook

The Legacy Contact will then be able to write a post to display on top of the memorialised timeline (e.g. announcing the memorial service), update the profile photo and cover photo and respond to new friend requests. In one way it’s a more modern version of www.rip.ie in Ireland.

You also have an option to give your Legacy Contact permission to download an archive of the photos, posts and profile information you shared on Facebook BUT they will not be able to log in as the person who passed away or see that person’s private messages.

Your legacy contact can:

  • View posts, even if you had set your privacy to Only Me.
  • Decide who can see and who can post tributes, if the memorialized account has an area for tributes.
  • Delete tribute posts.
  • Change who can see posts that you’re tagged in.
  • Remove tags of you that someone else has posted.
  • Respond to new friend requests (example: old friends or family members who weren’t yet on Facebook).
  • Update your profile picture and cover photo.
  • Request the removal of your account.
  • Turn off the requirement to review posts and tags before they appear in the tributes section, if you had timeline review turned on.
  • Download a copy of what you’ve shared on Facebook, if you have this feature turned on.

Your legacy contact can’t:

  • Log into your account.
  • Read your messages.
  • Remove any of your friends or make new friend requests.

Alternatively, you can also in advance simply select that you’d rather have your account permanently deleted after death.

How to set this up:

On your Facebook page, click the grey cog symbol and go to your settings. Choose “security” and then “Legacy Contact”:

Legacy Contact_Choose

Legacy Contact_Settings

After you choose the person, you have the option to send them a message about it and why, if you so wish (see example below). From there you can also select if you would like the person to able to download your posts and images:

Legacy Contact_MessageLegacy Contact_Data

Obviously, another route that works for other people is to ignore the Legacy Contact and memorialized request and strike a prearranged agreement between couples/friends/family to give them your login details and to specifically tell them what you’d like to happen.

Important things to note

  • At this time, you can only add a Facebook friend as your legacy contact. You cannot add someone who doesn’t use the social network.
  • Once an account is memorialized, content can’t be removed from it. But if you feel that a piece of content on a memorialized Timeline doesn’t follow the Facebook Community Standards, you can report it with the report feature.
  • Memorialized profiles don’t appear in public spaces on Facebook such as suggestions for “People You May Know”, ads or birthday reminders.
  • Content the person shared for example photos or posts will stay on Facebook and can be still visible to the person it was shared with.

Whatever you decide to do, it’s worth striking up a conversation about how you would like your account handled, should anything happen to you.

For those who would like to create an additional space on Facebook to share memories of a loved one, they also suggests creating a group.

(Images via Facebook Newsroom) 

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Hello! Úna-Minh is a journalist, social media consultant and virtual assistant who loves (you guessed it) TRAVEL. She also feels a bit strange writing in the third person so she'll stop that now. You can find out more about me and my Mammy in the about section of this blog!

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1 Comment

  1. […] of the simplest policies when it comes to the death of one its users, however, unlike Facebook’s Legacy Contact, you can’t officially appoint someone to look after your account with Twitter (except at your own […]

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