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How to manage online accounts after death

Find out what happens to online and social media accounts when you die and what you can do now to prepare your digital legacy.

What will your digital legacy be?

Have you ever considered what happens to your Facebook account and other online accounts when you die?

It’s not something previous generations had to think about. But in today’s world, where almost everyone is active online, it’s important not to overlook your digital life when making a Will and getting your affairs in order.

It’s not just about protecting your privacy after death, it’s also about what’s precious. Where once there were photo albums and video tapes to pass on, now many of our photos and videos are stored online, behind security settings and easily forgotten passwords.

Who will be able to access these sentimental ‘digital assets’ when you’re gone? The simple answer is no-one, unless you leave instructions for who should take care of your digital affairs and how. That’s why we’ve created My Digital Legacy, an easy-to-follow guide to recording your digital wishes ready for when the time comes.

password being entered on a computer screen

What happens to your social media accounts when you die?

Recent statistics suggest over 80% of adults in the UK use social media, but how many have thought about what they could leave floating in cyberspace when they’re gone?

Most social media platforms have a policy for what happens to a deceased person’s profile, but this can only be actioned if the platform is informed of the death. Hence why it’s important to appoint someone to handle your digital affairs when you’re no longer around to do so.

Here’s a brief introduction to the policies of some of the most popular social media and the options you have. Please remember that policies can change, so always double check before finalising your instructions.

What happens to my Facebook account when I die?

With Facebook there are two options to choose from:

  1. Delete your account
    To do this, your representatives will need to supply a death certificate, as well as evidence that they are a close family member or your executor.
  2. Memorialise the account
    This allows your account to stay active, so people on your friends list can continue to see your pictures or post on your timeline if they wish.

Can I do anything on Facebook now?

Yes. You can decide in advance whether you’d like your Facebook account to be deleted or memorialised.

Or you can choose to nominate someone to act as your ‘legacy contact’ after your death. This person will be able to accept new friend requests, change your profile picture and download posts, pictures and videos from your account.

To nominate a legacy contact, go to your Facebook account settings.

Here’s more information about what happens to a Facebook account after a death.

Close up of man’s hands using a smartphone

Other popular social media accounts

Twitter

Your Twitter account can be deactivated when you die. Twitter will need the user name of the account, a copy of the death certificate and proof of identity from the person requesting the deactivation.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn need slightly more information to delete an account including name, email address, the company most recently worked for and the date of death. There’s also the option to link to an obituary.

Pinterest

Your Pinterest account can be deleted

Gmail

You can set up Google’s Inactive Account Manager to let Google know who should have access to your information and whether your account should be deleted after you die.

Instagram

Like Facebook, your Instagram account can be memorialised or deactivated. The requestor will need to supply a death certificate and evidence that they are either the next of kin or an executor.

Find more information on your social media options and other popular platforms.

My digital legacy

Your digital legacy - 5 things to do now

Here are 5 simple things you can do now to leave your online affairs in order.

  1. Choose a digital executor
    Nominate a relative or friend to act as your digital executor. Naming them in your Will will ensure they have the legal authority to act on your behalf. More on how to choose a digital executor, the role and its responsibilities.
  2. List all your online accounts
    Listing every online account you have is the best place to start planning your digital legacy. Include usernames and account numbers but importantly, do not include passwords. Your executors will not need your password to access your accounts. More on what information to include when you list your online accounts.
  3. Document your digital wishes
    Add to your list, clear instructions for how your digital affairs should be dealt with when you die. For example, memorialising your Facebook account and sharing your digital photos with a specific person. document your digital wishes.
  4. Store your digital wishes safely
    The time will come when your digital wishes will be needed, so it’s important to store them somewhere safe and let someone you trust know where they are. There’s only one way to ensure your digital wishes are legally binding and that is to include them in your Will. More on how to store your digital wishes and what to think about.
  5. Back up your digital assets
    It’s important to regularly back up your digital assets like photos and videos, so you can preserve your precious memories for the next generation.

 

When it comes to later life planning, don’t overlook your online presence. Social media feels so public; it’s easy to forget each account is a private domain no-one else can access. To prevent your social media accounts just sitting there uncared for after you’re gone, take time now to record your wishes and leave your digital legacy in safe hands.

SunLife offers a range of straightforward and affordable products including over 50s life insurance, funeral plans, life insurance, equity release, pet insurance, home insurance, car insurance, ISAs and Will writing services.

Here's the information that you need to know about who we are and the other companies that we work with in order to provide our products and services.

Who are SunLife? 

Phoenix Life Limited trades as SunLife and is the provider of the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, SunLife Insurance and the life insurance policy payment option for Funeral Plans. Phoenix Life Limited’s registered office is at 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 1016269). Phoenix Life Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 110418). As part of SunLife’s commitment to quality service and security, telephone calls may be recorded.

SunLife Limited distributes financial products and services and is a company limited by shares, registered office: 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 05460862). SunLife Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 769427).

You can contact us by post at SunLife, PO Box 1395, Peterborough, PE2 2TR or by phone on 0800 008 6060.

If you choose to add Funeral Benefit Option to your Guaranteed Over 50 Plan the funeral services are arranged and provided by Dignity Funerals Limited. Dignity Funerals Limited is a company registered in England and Wales No. 00041598. VAT registered No. 486 6081 14. 4 King Edwards Court, King Edwards Square, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP. Telephone No. 0121 354 1557. Fax No. 0121 355 808. Part of Dignity plc. A British Company. Dignity is not authorised or regulated for this activity by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority but is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

The funeral services are arranged by a funeral director selected by Golden Charter Ltd. Golden Charter Ltd are not required to be authorised or regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority in relation to funeral plans but are registered providers with the Funeral Planning Authority.

If you choose to pay for your funeral in one go, with a single payment, you will have a contract with Golden Charter. The funeral services will be arranged by a funeral director selected by Golden Charter Ltd.

If you choose to pay for your funeral with a life insurance policy, the policy will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife. The funeral services will be arranged by a funeral director selected by Golden Charter Ltd.

Who provides My Smarter (ISA)?

My Smarter (ISA) is provided by Scottish Friendly Asset Managers Limited. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register, registration No. 188832. Member of The Investment Association. Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ.

Who provides the Will writing services?

Hugh James is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA Number:303202).

The information contained on this website is based on Hugh James' understanding of the law of intestacy in England and Wales only as at April 2014. The law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is significantly different. This is for information purposes and is not intended to be legal advice.

Who provides Family Life Insurance?

SunLife Family Life Insurance is provided by Scottish Friendly Assurance Society Limited which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register (registration number 110002). Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ. 

Who provides SunLife Pet Insurance

SunLife Pet Insurance is arranged and administered by BDML Connect Limited. BDML Connect Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 309140). Registered in England and Wales Number 02785540. Registered Office: 45 Westerham Road, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 2QB.

Who provides SunLife Home Insurance

SunLife Home Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.

Who provides SunLife Car Insurance

SunLife Car Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.