What happens to someone's Facebook account when they die? Well, if they had the foresight to designate a legacy contact prior to passing away, Facebook will hand the reins of their account over to their designated contact upon proof of their death. But what if your loved one -- like the majority of young, invincible social media users -- never got around to getting their social media affairs in order?
If one of your Facebook friends has passed away and their account is still active, here are your options.
Legacy contacts are named by the account holder prior to their death -- a family member or a friend who will be able to manage the person's memorialized account when they die. Legacy contacts can post a pinned post at the top of the deceased user's Timeline, respond to new friend requests, and update the person's profile picture and cover photo. They can also, with the deceased user's permission, download an archive of the user's photos, Timeline posts, and profile information.
Legacy contacts cannot log into the deceased user's account and see any of their private information, such as Facebook messages. They also cannot remove the user's past posts, photos or friends.
To choose a legacy contact, open up your Facebook account and go to Settings > Security > Legacy Contact. Click Edit, type in your friend's name, and click Add.
You will have the choice to send them a message about your choice immediately -- click Send to send them the message, or click Not Now if you'd prefer they not know about your decision. You'll need to eventually tell them, of course, because they will need to ask Facebook to memorialize your account when you die.
Once you've chosen a legacy contact, you'll see the option to allow them to download a copy of your Facebook account under Data Archive Permission. To allow your legacy contact to do this, click the checkbox and click Close.
If you do not choose a legacy contact before you die, nobody will be able to manage your Facebook account -- but they can still memorialize it.
Memorializing someone's Facebook account
If your friend has passed away without setting up a legacy contact, you can still request that Facebook memorialize their account using this form. You will need to provide the person's name, approximate date of death, and optional proof of death (such as a link to an obituary).
A memorialized account will have the word "Remembering" in front of the person's name, and will not show up in Facebook ads, "People You May Know," or send out reminders on the person's birthday. Memorialized accounts cannot be logged into, so memorializing someone's account also prevents the account from getting hacked.
If you're an immediate family member, you can request that the account be deleted instead of memorialized. To do this, use Facebook's Special Request for Deceased Person's Account form. You will need to provide the deceased person's full name, email address, date of death and the URL of their Timeline. You will also need to provide proof that you are an immediate family member -- you can do this with a birth certificate, death certificate, or proof of authority.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 2, 2016. It is being republished as part of CNET's series "Logging Out," CNET's look at death in the digital age.
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