February 7, 2014
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When a loved one passes away, many conversations are sparked around what happens to that loved one’s social media accounts. We have all heard of the Facebook reminders, telling you when you log in to reconnect with a deceased loved one, and how this can cause a lot of heart break and mixed emotions. Many social media sites are now coming up with ways to deal with the social media accounts once the account holder passes.

Some testators are taking it upon themselves to leave specific instructions within their Wills that they would like certain social media accounts shut down, or alternatively informing their Estate Trustees that such accounts should be closed on their passing.

If you are appointed as an Estate Trustee this can turn out to be a difficult and emotional task, as you may not know the passwords, unsure on where to start, or might have loved ones/beneficiaries that would like the accounts to stay active as a memorial site.

With the ever growing social world around us, it is also important to try and figure out what social media sites the deceased might have an account with. Many may think it is as simple as notifying the site that holds the account of the deceased that the account holder has passed away, but actually it requires more work and documentation than that. Also, the majority of social media sites have a review process that can take months before you see the result you were looking for.

As a reference for our estate trustees, we have outlined what majority of the specific social media sites currently require, and what they will do with the account upon being notified of an account holders passing. Below is information for the top 6 social media sites:

Facebook

Facebook has the option for accounts to be turned into a memorialized account. This will turn the deceased account holder’s profile into a memorial page, with the content that the deceased person shared remaining on Facebook. You must submit a request for the profile to be changed into a memorialized account. The information that is required to be entered is the deceased person’s full name as listed on the account, the link to the person’s profile, the email address of the deceased that would be linked to the account, your relationship to the deceased, the date of death, proof of death (the link to the obituary or news article), and your contact email. The following link will bring you to the right place to start the memorializing process on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/help/359046244166395/.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn will actually close and remove the deceased member’s profile. LinkedIn requires the following information in order to process the request for the account to be closed; the deceased’s name, the company where they worked at most recently, your relationship to them, the deceased’s email address, and the link to their profile. The following link will bring you directly to the page on the site where you can start the process to have the profile removed and closed:https://help.linkedin.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/2842

Pinterest

Pinterest will deactivate the deceased member’s account once a family member gets in touch with them. You will need to email Pinterest at care@pinterest.com with all of the following information; your full name, name and email address associated with the deceased person’s account, the link to their Pinterest account, evidence of their passing (death certificate or online obituary), and your relationship to the deceased account holder including evidence of relationship (birth or marriage certificate, public mention of relation in obituary, etc.)

Tumblr

Tumblr will work with the immediate family to shut down the blogger’s blogs. They will require the online link to the obituary, and as much information as possible about the blog account, the blog’s URL, and the email address registered to the account. This information can be emailed to Tumblr support team at deskpro@tumblr.com.

Gmail

Gmail could potentially allow the Estate Trustee access to the account holder’s account, but requires documents to be faxed or mailed into Google for their review prior to access being granted. Some of the information Gmail requires is your full name, your mailing address, your email address, a photocopy of your government issued ID, the death certificate, and the deceased Gmail address. Gmail does indicate on their site that it is a very lengthy process to gain access to the account. The following link will bring you directly to the page on the site where you can start the process and review the details they provide for gaining access to the account holder’s account; https://support.google.com/mail/answer/14300?hl=en

Hotmail/Outlook

Hotmail/Outlook accounts are automatically deactivated following 365 days of inactivity. If you require information from the account, such as contacts, or would like the account closed sooner, you can contact the Microsoft Custodian of Records by emailing them at msrecords@microsoft.com to start the process. All the information and documentation they require can be found within the following link; http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook_com/forum/oaccount-omyinfo/my-family-member-died-recently-is-in-coma-what-do/308cedce-5444-4185-82e8-0623ecc1d3d6

Remember, every social media site is different and will require different documentation to gain access, close or memorialize an account. It is always best to try and contact the social media site directly and get the most current required documentation. Please remember that majority of the sites have a review process, which will take time.

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2017 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.