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What happens to your Facebook profile when you die and how to decide now

The Facebook icon on a phone illustrating what happens to a Facebook account when you die
AUTHOR: Graham Southorn

Facebook lets you decide now what you want to happen to your account when you die. There are two options to choose from and it just takes a few seconds to pick one (and don’t worry, you can change it again if you wish).

The two choices are:

Settings for both options can now be found in the Meta Accounts Centre. But rather confusingly, it applies only to your main Facebook profile.

If you have other Facebook profiles or other Meta accounts, such as Instagram or WhatsApp, they won’t be covered by these settings.

It’s probably quicker to change the settings on a desktop or laptop computer but there’s not much in it.

1. Request that your account is deleted

If you’d prefer your Facebook account to be deleted or deactivated when you die, you can do this easily.

On your phone

  • Click your picture (with the three lines ≡ in the bottom-right hand corner)
  • The Meta Accounts Centre blurb is at the top. Tap “See more in Accounts Centre”.
  • Scroll down to Settings and Privacy
  • Find Account Settings about half way down.
  • Tap Personal details
  • Tap Account ownership and control
  • Tap Memorialisation
  • Select Deactivate account or Delete account

However, your account won’t actually be deleted until someone tells Facebook that you’ve died. It says, “Your account will be permanently deleted when someone lets us know that you’ve passed away.”

Even if you choose this option of your own free will, Facebook still seems to think it might be distressing for your family members if your account suddenly disappears.

So it’s added a new option governing your Facebook account when you die. You can, if you wish, message a friend to let them know that this is what you’re planning. To do this, tap the Message a friend section.

The screen says, “We strongly suggest discussing the decision to delete your account with family and friends. You can send someone a message here to let them know, but you also might want to talk to them in person.”

On a laptop/desktop computer

Changing these settings on your computer is a bit quicker than using a phone.

Set a legacy contact to determine what happens to your Facebook account when you die
The facebook Legacy contact screen on a laptop or desktop computer
  • Click your circular profile picture in the top right hand corner
  • Click Settings & privacy from the drop-down menu
  • Click Settings from the drop-down menu
  • The screen should now say General profile settings
  • The bottom option says Memorialisation settings: Decide what happens to your main Facebook profile after you pass away
  • Click Edit on the right-hand side
  • The bottom option is Delete account after death

Once you’ve chosen this, you see this text:

“You’ve requested to have your account permanently deleted after your death. Once someone lets us know that you’ve passed away, no one will be able to see your Profile again. If you want friends and family to be able to visit your Profile and share memories in the future, you can choose to keep your Facebook account.”

If you prefer your profile to act as an online memorial, follow the steps in the following section. Your Facebook account when you die can be managed by someone you know and trust.

2. Choose a legacy contact to manage your Facebook account when you die

Instead of having your Facebook account be deleted when you die, you can instead choose for it to be managed by a legacy contact.

The legacy contact won’t be able to read your messages, remove friends or make new friend requests. This is not an exhaustive list, but the legacy contact will be able to:

  • Write a pinned post, for example to share a final message
  • View posts, even if you had set privacy to Only me
  • Decide who can see and post tributes
  • Delete tribute posts
  • Change who can see posts you’re tagged in
  • Remove tags of you that someone else has posted
  • Respond to new friend requests
  • Update your profile picture and cover photo
  • Request your account be removed
  • Download a copy of what you’ve shared on Facebook (if the feature was turned on)

On your phone

  • Click the three lines in the bottom-right corner of the app ≡
  • Scroll down to Settings and Privacy
  • Tap the first option (Settings)
  • Under Account near the top, tap Personal and account information
  • This screen says Personal information. Tap Manage account at the bottom
  • Tap Legacy Contact
  • Tap the option that says Legacy Contact

On a laptop/desktop computer

  • Click your circular profile picture in the top right hand corner
  • Click Settings & privacy from the drop-down menu
  • Click Settings from the drop-down menu
  • The screen should now say General profile settings
  • The first option is Your legacy contact
  • Enter the name of your chosen legacy contact and click Add

The legacy contact will then be informed. Facebook says: “We’ll let your legacy contact know that you’ve chosen them. They won’t be notified again until your account is memorialised.”

Naming a digital executor in your Will

Besides Facebook, you may have other social media profiles and online accounts such as Google, Apple and Amazon Prime. If you have a lot of these, it’s worth naming a “digital executor” in your Will who can manage or close accounts after your death.

However, you should also follow the steps in this article to decide what happens to your Facebook account when you die.

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The information contained in these articles is for general interest purposes only. We take every precaution to ensure that the information is correct at the time of publishing but errors can occur. Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, there may be omissions or inaccuracies in the information. Bristol Wills & Estate Planning Ltd is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for any results obtained from the use of this information. You should never rely on the information in these articles as a substitute for professional legal advice, whether from Bristol Wills & Estate Planning or any other legal service or professional.

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