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What happens to our Facebook account when we pass away?

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While it’s never easy for any of us to ponder our own demise, we live in an age wherein many of us have an “online counterpart” of our real lives – our social media profiles.

Have you ever wondered about what happens to your Facebook profile when you die? Does it remain online forever, or does Facebook simply delete your account? Wait, how would they know for sure about someone’s death?

Like I said, it’s a thought that might make a lot of us uncomfortable, but it’s something we nevertheless have to come to grips with just in case something unfortunate happens to us.

Facebook has apparently already considered such a scenario, and has a system that can turn your page into a “memorial page” in case of death. They also recently introduced a new “legacy contact” feature.

What is a legacy contact?

According to Facebook, a legacy contact is “someone you choose to look after your account if it’s memorialized”. Along with this feature is the option to have your account deleted right after your death.

Ok, so who’s the best person to choose?

Well, that’s entirely up to you. But bear in mind that this is a huge responsibility for a person, so it’s probably best to choose someone who you believe is entirely up to the task, like your significant other, or a close friend or relative.

After your death, whomever you choose will gain limited access to your account, meaning your messages can’t be accessed. He or she, however, will be able to pin posts to your page, respond to friend requests, and change your profile and cover photo. Your legacy contact will also be able to download all of your posts and photos, if you give him or her permission.

How do I designate a legacy contact?

You can set up a legacy contact by clicking the dropdown arrow found on the upper right corner of your Facebook page. Select “Settings”, then “Security,” and then scroll down to “Legacy Contact.”

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36 Comments
  1. That’s an interesting option. I previously thought someone would have to reuest that the page is taken down. I like the thought of the memorial page too – it seems like quite an apt thing to do if you were quite a heavy user.

    • I agree. All websites should have an option for this. Like Twitter. Aaron Swartz, the hacktivist who killed himself a while back still has his twitter up. It’s quite strange to visit there. Everyone on the web leaves a huge mark here.

  2. Very neat of Facebook to have that Memorial page option. It’s a very clever technique to retain users even after they’re dead as well.

    • Damn good point there, I supose even dead members will count as active users if people continue to post memorial messages on their walls.

      • It’s not that good though to continue with it because it might create more grief from my perspective.

    • I agree with you, in my country we are used to go to church every year or month to remember this person, and I have heard that some people actually use this option to announce those dates, I think that’s an easy way to organize when it comes to remember someone that isn’t here anymore, without mentioning that it can actually be helpful with all the grief process.

  3. Well, you are right that I don’t want to think about that but it is important, so thanks. I do wonder, though, if having a legacy account is something that I would want to thrust on someone. It is definitely something I would want to ask them before I passed away. I never cease to be amazed by all the things that Facebook had anticipated. Great, unique post.

  4. I think it is about time that Facebook did something like this and well overdue imo.

    I have known 2 people now, both I was relatively close to whose Facebook accounts have just continued to post adverts and comments from people or companies they followed. And recently I had the delightful experience of Facebook emailing me to remind me of that person’s birthday. One died in dubious circumstances that was finally ruled as an accidental death – he hung himself but it is not believed that that was the intention. The other committed suicide just before her birthday. The last thing I needed and I would guess her husband needed or family needed was to be informed it was her birthday. Even a year on it is still informing us all of her birthday.

    A memorial page sounds like a good move.

    • This is exactly why something needed to be put into place. I’ve heard so many stories of people getting really upset after Facebook had decided to remind them of their dead Dad’s birthday so it’s a relief to know that this will come to an end.

    • Maybe you should tell her relatives they can directly contact Facebook, they’ll delete the account if that is what the relatives want. The last time I checked tho… you needed to provide proof the person was indeed dead, so they might need to prove it before ever gaining access to that account or get it deleted, but I know for a fact that this can definitely be done.

  5. That is so interesting! But I wonder if it’s possible to pick two people, you know, just in case the first one dies or isn’t available to do the task for some reason? You never know! I’m actually glad I no longer use Facebook, I only have a fake account I use for games, but that’s it. When I die I’ll not have to worry about my Facebook profile,but I know some folks who will surely like to take a look at this article 🙂

    • Wow, your comment opens up new doors. What if our legacy contact is aging and also has their own Facebook page? Would they find their own younger legacy contact to both take care of their own Facebook and the Facebook they were supposed to be managing? And what about that new legacy contact? It appears that this method is certainly not feasible after a few generations. But the point still remains: how would FB know when a person dies, and to designate the legacy contact to start being able to manage their page? Also, with more than a billion monthly users, FB is going to have a lot of trouble with managing those few billion pages in a few decades. Something FB should consider is giving the public the option of deleting accounts that have been inactive for, for example, 25 years. But, I really like the idea of the memorial page that David mentioned. This would preserve some important people, rather than ambiguously deleting everybody. I wonder if FB will have enough memory for all of those pages… But the good thing is, I know I won’t have to worry about this matter any time soon!

  6. This is a very important part of Facebook that people commonly forget about. Though we don’t like talking about death, it is important to so that things go smoothly when it does happen. That way, instead of your page just getting forgotten, it can become a memory of you that lasts forever.

    • You’d need to remember to leave advance instructions somewhere, naming the person you wish to be the guardian of the account.

  7. This is something else. Now, I’m wondering if this will open doors to new exploits. Hopefully, Facebook worked this system out well. I personally wouldn’t use this, sure you want people to remember you, but seems like a strange way through facebook.

    • Wow! People are treating Facebook like it’s a living will. God forbid but if you die, you don’t have to worry about Facebook anymore. An absent account will probably get removed after so long of none use.

    • It’s a good way to let people know you’ve passed away, especially people whom you aren’t close with. Other than that, you’re right, it’d be a tad strange.

  8. I already knew about Memorialization after a friend killed himself and we had to petition Facebook to memorialize his profile, however the legacy contact seems a little too far. You’re dead, you shouldn’t seem to be updating your Facebook profile.. or is that just me?

    • I can see how other people might want to leave messages of condolence on the page – especially if they live too far away to attend the funeral but I think that the only content I would feel comfortable seeing added would be informative ones regarding the funeral or wake and thank-yous. Anything else just seems…creepy.

  9. I did not even know of this facebook feature. This would be a great help to anyone. I have this friend who died in Leukemia last year. This facebook feature is not know widely and his account is still active. Every year that his birthday comes, it is being shown on our FB news feeds. I just think that we might contact FB to delete his account. This is a great information. It is worth to share. Thanks!

  10. Facebook Legacy Contact policy has great feature and it is introduced first in US and will become implemented in the rest of the world. It’s good to see one’s active Facebook page after his death. But the page is maintained by other people, this may change the originality of the page.

  11. I’ll probably choose one of my kids as a legacy contact. It’s better and less messier that way. I don’t particularly use Facebook all that much anyway, I use it just to contact my friends in case I lose their numbers. I don’t post pictures all that often, so I imagine I’ll just tell them to delete it.

  12. As uncomfortable and awkward talking about stuff like this can be I really appreciate this post. I never knew about this. I sort of use Facebook as a form of “scrapbook” or memory book for my children. I would have for it to all go down the drain after I pass away. I love the thought of my child having access to my account if its ever needed. Luckily I have both of my parents passwords so I will also go make sure and designate myself as their legacy contact. Thanks for the great bit of information. I never would have known.

  13. I though this was a thought provoking article. I wonder what Facebook will be like in 10-20 years. With more than 6 billion people alive today, 56 million die each year. I know this may seem morbid but eventually there will hundreds of millions of accounts on Facebook belonging to people who are no longer with us. This might be a great thing for that persons family, however. If in 100 years Facebook is still online, your great grandchildren will be able be able to see your profile and for better or worse they will see you for who you really were.

  14. This is interesting indeed.

    In this age of social media when all people remember are the posts and tweets, it may also make a fitting tribute to announce to the world of one’s demise through the much-loved platform.

    But again, I am not too sure of how Facebook will react to controversies around the tragedy of death. An example that comes to my mind is of a journalist (Martin Manley) who committed suicide and documented all of his thoughts and facts supporting his decision. Although he paid up for his site in advance, Yahoo could not stomach the controversy and pulled his site down.

    Will Facebook remain impartial and impervious to the society but obedient to a simple user? I guess not, but this goes a long way to assuage fears of loosing social media status after one’s death!

  15. This is something that I’ve actually thought about recently so it was really nice to come across this on your blog.

    I didn’t think that Facebook actually had systems in place for an event like this, I thought about writing down my password somewhere to give to my family. I simply imagined that Facebook would simply delete the accounts after a certain period of inactivity. It is nice that they have put such systems in place though. The memorial system seems like a nice touch, I think it would be nice for future generations to see their grandparents or great grandparents photos, posts and some of their life or to see your old parents or friends posts.

    I haven’t personally had to deal with such a situation but it’s nice to know that there are systems in place for when something like this occurs.

  16. That is really a good feature to have. It’s nice to know that when a loved one passes you can still keep there memory alive to have family, and friends leave posts, or post past pictures to remember the person.

  17. That’s very informative, I actually was wondering about what would happen when someone passes away and their Facebook account is still available. I personally know people who have passed away and for some reason, their Facebook account never got deleted. However, I’ve seen some family members who have made their loved ones account as a memory with all of their social media history, I think it’s quite lovely.

  18. I’ve had friends of friends on Facebook who have passed away. I’m not sure if they, or anyone they knew, were aware of the memorial page option, but it’s always been a bit surreal to see their accounts pop up on occasion. Which I guess makes me of two minds on the legacy contact option. I’m not much of a Facebook person in any case, so if I did choose a legacy contact I’d probably just tell him or her to delete my profile. But I could see how others would appreciate the option.

  19. Seriously? What if someone would try to hack your account and use that legacy contact a hacker himself and try to delete it.. I doubt you can’t bring back your account with it after it was deleted..I guess facebook should make another way of giving a legacy contact to the users.. especially when hacking nowadays is common to anyone.

  20. This legacy contact is not available on every country. This is only available in some country as of now. If you live in the Philippines you will never find a legacy contact settings so this memorial page is not available in every country.

  21. I wouldn’t bother putting anyone under the dreaded responsibility of assigning the status of my account as some type of beneficiary in case of my death. Either Facebook discovers news of my death and my account stays up when I pass or it gets taken down. It’s not like it’s worth money anyway.

    This thought actually crosses my mind every now and again when I hear about certain people dying on the news who had an online social media account. But yeah, in this world, we all have something until we die and let it go. Social media accounts aren’t really worth the fuss to preserve.

  22. Wow I never considered what happens to your Facebook when you die. I think the legacy option is cool. The hard thing is choosing the person. I originally thought about my mom but if things go how they are supposed to than I will probably outlive her. Than I thought about a sister or brother but the same thing can happen. I do not what to keep changing it because it will be like a reminder that you are outliving everyone. I will probably just want the account deleted.

  23. I already maintain a page for a relative that passed away. I’m not using this feature though, she had just given me the login credentials in case. I would like to memorialize the page however.

  24. I don’t think dead people need an FB presence after they die.

    Sure some updates may remind friends and family of the departed but still as there won’t be any interaction, I doubt it would make that huge a difference. When I’m dead my last post on FB should be “good bye friends.” No need to remind people of their loss with frequent updates.

  25. I had no idea about this legacy contact, it’s actually really useful, thank you so much for sharing!
    I have a cousin who passed away about three years ago and I’m not pretty sure if they did this process or someone had access to his Facebook account, but the account, it’s still open but they only post memorial dates and you know, it’s a space dedicated to help with the grief, I guess.
    Sometimes we need to stick with something to feel that the memory of that person it’s still there.

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