Even though your digital assets are pretty much immortal — even material you think you deleted — a few websites have tackled the issue of how to handle your digital accounts when you die. That means that some website managers have at least begun to address the issue of handling the accounts of those who are deceased and what steps digital heirs need to take protect those assets from being abused or misused. Just imagine how unnerving it would be to receive a Facebook posting from someone you knew had died several years ago.
But this is an evolving issue and, as of early 2017, there is no consistency to the ways websites are addressing dead account holders, if they are. The chart below shows what steps could be taken for a number of popular sites. This information is current as of the first quarter of 2017. The provided links (hopefully) will identify subsequent changes, additions, and updates.
Editor’s note: The process of compiling information for this chart reinforced the need for an up-to-date list of log-ins and passwords for each account, especially if you (or the deceased) have been active in the cyber world. Accounts with Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, YouTube, PayPal, eBay, and Amazon, for instance, have accumulated a massive amount of content and metadata on you, all of which is available to be plucked by folks with nefarious intent concerning that information. An up-to-date list of log-ins and passwords for your accounts will help you or your heirs delete an inactive account. Without the log-ins and passwords it will be difficult, if not impossible, to close and delete an account, even for one who is deceased.
|Name of site||Description||Links|
|Before you die, two options: (1) name someone (called a “legacy contact”) to manage your Facebook account (or permanently delete it), after you die or (2) request in advance using your legacy contact that you want to turn your Facebook profile into a memorial page where existing friends/family can post messages; no new friends can be accepted. Memories can be shared on the memorialized timelines. If you had no plan, Facebook will take requests from a close family member or executor via a special online form to establish a Facebook memorial or remove a deceased person’s account, along with uploading documentation (i.e., the death certificate).||Information on first and second option: Visit this Facebook page. read information about Memorized accounts. To report a deceased person: visit this page or Facebook Help here.|
|After an account holder passes, a verified family member emails a request to Twitter to deactivate the account, along with proof of death, confirmation of the relative’s identity, etc.||To begin, read this article.|
|Linked-in||To request removal of a deceased’s LinkedIn profile, fill out an online form — signed digitally — and submit with proof of death, a public obituary, date of death, your relationship to the deceased, and the email address registered to the deceased. According to the website, they take action as soon as all the relevant information is received.||Read this page for a general explanation of the process and fill out the form.
|Snapchat||The website has no information about how to go about removing a deceased’s account, maybe because images or videos are only available for viewing for a short, set period. However, you can give a trusted person your Snapchat login and password with instructions to delete the account after your death.||If you know the user name and password, go to this page.|
|While alive, you can set up an Inactive Account Manager specifying a time period after which your account will be classified as “inactive”, what is to happen with your data, and who to notify. You can also instruct Google to delete your account. When you die, an immediate family member or authorized representative (1) fills out an online request to obtain the contents of the deceased’s Google account and (2) uploads proof of death and documentation (ID) that you are a family member / executor / legal representative. Verification procedures thereafter with multiple waiting periods.||Inactive Account Manager set up and for further support. And fill out an online request form.|
|YouTube||Video streaming site acquired by Google, site follows the same procedure as Google.||Visit YouTube Support.|
|Yahoo email||To close the Yahoo account of a deceased person, mail a letter requesting closure, along with the deceased Yahoo ID, death certificate and proof that you are authorized to act as a personal representative. Mail the request to Concierge Executive Escalations, Yahoo Inc. at the physical street address given in the link.||Read this article for further information.|
|Owned by Facebook, Instagram accounts can be memorialized via an online form with a proof of death, (such as a link to a news article or obituary) or an account can be deleted if a request is made by a verified immediate family member, along with proof of death. It should be noted that Section 8 of its privacy statement, states that you need to get into touch with the company about a deceased account holder.||Read this article to get started. 1) To memorialize an account, visit this page on Instagram. 2) To delete an account, request it here.
|Email firstname.lastname@example.org your name, name and address of the deceased, link to the deceased’s Pinterest account, proof of death and your relationship to the deceased, verified by notary, family tree, birth or marriage certificate.||Read this Pinterest article.|
|PayPal||The estate executor (or other authorized individual) can close the account by faxing the death certificate, a copy of the deceased’s will or legal document, and photo id of the executor. Faxed documentation will be reviewed by Compliance Department.||Read this article. Fax number: 1-303-395-2815.|
|Dropbox||If you have access, look in the deceased Dropbox folder, which syncs to their account online. If no access, send a request to the Dropbox Legal Department at the San Francisco street address given in the link with proof of death, your right to that information, your government-issued ID, a valid court order that it was the deceased’s intent that you have access to the files and that Dropbox is compelled by law to provide those files to you (though there is no guarantee they will provide access).||Visit this Dropbox link to get started.|
|iCloud||No information seems to be available on how to delete an iCloud account on the support page. But, several discussions on Apple support communities, suggest the best approach is to contact Apple Support to see if the company will deactivate the account; most likely you will have to provide a death certificate of the account holder, and a legal document that you have POA or are the estate’s executor. Legal team will review the submitted documents.||Apple Support via to “speak” to someone.|
|Skype||No information on how to delete a deceased iCloud account is readily available, unless you know the Skype name and password of the deceased. In the Skype community discussion boards, using “deleting deceased Skype accounts” as the search term, contacting Customer Service is the only solution offered.||Try contacting Customer Service, but you will be prompted to sign in with the account number. Which does you little good without log-in details.|