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Published: August 4, 2020

When a person dies, there are a series of tax, financial and legal tasks that need to be handled. But what happens to those vacation photos shared on Instagram? Or those unread emails sitting in Gmail?

Although there is no standardized or simple way to dismantle an electronic life, below are a few guidelines to help you manage a digital legacy after a family member has died.


If the deceased person used Google Docs, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google Photos, Gmail or even YouTube, they had what is called a Google ID that must be addressed.

Thanks to Google’s Inactive Account Manager, there is a chance that the person that died left behind instructions. Through this account manager, account holders can set up a time-out period (three, six, nine or twelve months). Then, after that time of inactivity, all data is either deleted or designated to an assigned individual.

You can contact Google directly to verify if the deceased utilized this setting. If they had, your work is done. If they hadn’t, don’t panic.

Google understands that not everyone has the foresight to plan ahead. So, if you are faced with managing the digital legacy for a family member that did not have leave instructions on what to do, you can work directly with Google to manage his or her online accounts.

While Google will never provide an account holders password or other login information, the company will work directly with family members or legal representatives of a deceased person to facilitate requests to close and/or receive funds from their account. This can be done online by submitting a request to Google.

Some proof of relationship to the deceased may be required by Google to authenticate your request.


There are two ways to handle Facebook when someone dies: Memorialization and Deletion.

memorialized Facebook page retains the content that the deceased person posted and remains visible to the audience with whom it was originally shared. The word “Remembering” is shown next to the person’s name and, depending on the privacy settings set by the deceased person, friends can post and share memories on his or her timeline. Memorialization requests can be done online via the Facebook webpage in the Help Center.

If you wish to have access to the content from a Facebook page, such as photos or timeline posts, you can send a request to Facebook. You will be required to provide details of your relationship to the deceased before Facebook will proceed.

To delete a Facebook page, you will be required to provide documentation to confirm that you are an immediate family member or executor of the account holder’s estate. Facebook recommends that the fastest way to do this is by scanning the person’s death certificate. If you do not have access to the official death certificate, you will need to provide proof of your authority and that the person in fact has died.

Proof of authority can include:

  • Power of attorney document
  • Birth certificate
  • Will
  • Letter from the Estate

Proof of death can include:

  • Obituary
  • Memorial Card

All supplied documentation must match the information on the deceased person’s account.

Additionally, when submitting any of the documents above, be sure that all personal information NOT NEEDED to fulfill the request is eliminated, e.g. Social Security Numbers, bank account information, etc.

Once all the documents have been gathered, you can contact Facebook through their send us a request form to ask that the account be deleted. It can take up to 90 days after the request for Facebook to delete an account.


Instagram offers similar options to memorialize or delete an account. Like Facebook, Instagram accounts are memorialized upon receipt of a valid request. A memorialized account cannot be changed in any way and all posts remain visible to the audience with which they were initially shared.

Only immediate family members can request that an Instagram account be deleted. Proof of relationship will be required before the account is removed. You will be required to provide either the deceased person’s birth or death certificate, or proof of authority that you are the lawful representative of the deceased or his/her estate.


Twitter will work with the person authorized to act on behalf of the deceased’s estate, or with a verified immediate family member to have an account deactivated. A request for removal of the account can be done electronically.

Once received by Twitter, instructions will be sent via email requiring additional information to be submitted to validate the request. You will be required to provide more information on the deceased, a copy of your identification and a copy of the deceased’s death certificate. This is done to prevent false and inaccurate reports.

Plan Ahead

As technology continues to advance, your digital footprint will most likely continue to grow as you get older. Including a list of all your accounts, including user names and passwords, with your important documents will ensure that your digital legacy is managed exactly how you want.

Published with permission from www.FuneralMatters.com

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