We share on Facebook our life experiences. But how is the death of a friend or family member addressed?
I recently posted invites to a garage sale. I created an event in Facebook which eventually presented an opportunity to designate who will receive the invite. Amongst the list of friends I counted seven that I knew had been deceased. On a personal basis, I need to remove them from my list of friends. But on a security basis, an unresolved Facebook account is a likely target for a hack. It is deeply regrettable, but our deceased friends can be exploited. Many of these people lived in remote cities and I would often not know that they had passed away. Yet I would occasionally get messages from them or a request for something unusual. What I discovered was that their account had been hijacked or duplicated.
Another aspect of those who have died is the demographic. I am almost 70, so most of my friends are in that age group or older. It is no surprise that many of these folks are not technologically sophisticated or simply feeble, subsequently uninterested in complex passwords. So their accounts are most likely protected by simple passwords which can be relatively easy to exploit.
How To Report A Deceased Account?
Maybe the question that needs to be asked is whether to report a deceased account? It is an important thing to consider because one option that Facebook provides is for survivors to memorialize an account where friends can post messages and share photos. So the first thing to do is investigate their profile first to see if the site has been memorialized. Note the date of the most recent posting. Second, contact the administrator of the account or family members and mention the Facebook account. Many people may not be aware or simply forget to close the account. Finally, if all else fails, report it to Facebook.
How To Plan for Your Death in Facebook
Sounds funny that you would include your social media accounts in “estate planning.” But it really is a big deal. I delve into the general issue of password management in my article “Passwords – The Gremlins of Cyberspace” and how it relates to estate planning. Almost everything is conducted over the Internet these days, so having an executor designated for your estate includes access to passwords. If Facebook is included, your survivors will be able to access your account, memorialize it for a period of time, and close it if necessary. This will protect the integrity of the account and invariably protect connected friends.
What about those accounts?
So of the seven friends that have gone up to heaven, what has happened with their accounts? Interestingly, only one was actually dormant since the person passed away. All the others were “memorialized” in one way or another. It is fascinating how people have used these accounts to collect memories, share precious thoughts, and even celebrate their birthdays. You get a sense of the legacy that the person left behind. So it is obvious that their account was shared with a loved one. This often happens when a person enters into hospice care or is experiencing a severe illness. Someone takes over.
How Do I Memorialize or Delete an Account
Facebook provides a help page which provides some guidance. Included on this page is a link to a form you can fill out to request that 1) you have administrative privileges to the account to memorialize the account or 2) delete the account. Just know that you will need to have on hand a copy of the death certificate. Lacking that you will need to present evidence that you have power of attorney and other documents. The alternative, alas, is to have the account ID and password handy and you can memorialize or delete the account directly.
When going through the process, you will be provided several options. One is de-activation, which will keep the account visible but dormant. You can also choose to archive messages and other aspects of the Facebook account. “Deletion”, in Facebook parlance, is the nuclear option. Deleting the account will remove the account and all related data.
“Managing a Deceased Person’s Account,” Facebook
“Deactivating or Deleting Your Account,” Facebook