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What Happens To Online Accounts Upon Death?

From online banking to social networks, it seems everything these days is being done online. In order to take part in almost any virtual activity, an individual has to create an  online account. This raises an important question, what happens to all of these accounts when the individual dies?

BANKING & OTHER FINANCIALLY RELATED ACCOUNTS:
As for online banking and financial accounts, only the deceased person’s executor may be granted access. The executor or administrator should contact the necessary companies to inform them about the death of the user of the accounts, which will allow for access to the account, and money or property to be distributed to those who are entitled to it.

SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS:
Social media networks each have their own policies.

Facebook does not grant access to a deceased person’s account. Instead, FaceBook has a memorial status that turns the individual’s user page to a memorial page. Upon status change, friends can view and post their condolences or sympathy messages on the wall.  The memorial page can also be customized by close relatives upon approval by Facebook, but certain features like joining groups and posting status updates are disabled in this state. Should the family wish to have the page taken down and the account deleted, a request to FaceBook accompanied by a copy of the death certificate is required. To learn more about how to memorialize accounts, please read this FaceBook Blog article: http://www.facebook.com/blog.php?post=163091042130.

Twitter requests that family members notify them when a user passes away so that they can remove the account and assist family memebers in saving a backup of their public Tweets. The family will be asked to provide their own name and contact information, including email address, as well as the relationship to the deceased user, the username of the twitter account and a link to an obituary or news article verifying the death. Just as with FaceBook, Twitter cannot allow access to the account or disclose other non-public information regarding the account of a deceased user. For more on the process of notifying Twitter of a deceased user, please visit the Twitter support page: http://support.twitter.com/articles/87894-how-to-contact-twitter-about-a-deceased-user.

LinkedIn requires the completion of the “Verification of Death Form” that can be found as a document on the following LinkedIn answers page:  https://help.linkedin.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/2842/related/1.  The email address attached to the deceased user’s account is required.  The account will be deactivated upon verification.

YouTube also has a form that can be filled out to request access to a deceased user’s account. They require the deceased’s YouTube account name, death certificate, and a document with power of attorney over the YouTube account. The parent of the deceased may submit a birth certificate of the deceased in lieu of the power of attorney. It takes approximately thirty days for YouTube to process and validate the documents and grant access. YouTube information can be found here: http://www.google.com/support/youtube/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=94458

EMAIL:
For email accounts, each service provider has its own policies and protocols dealing with the death of an account user. Gmail and Hotmail, for example, grant the next of kin access to the account upon submission of necessary documents: proof of death and proof of lawful authorization to access the accounts of the deceased. Please note that Hotmail will automatically delete accounts that are inactive for a year.

Yahoo! mail, on the other hand, does not grant access to anyone except the actual user, unless it is court-ordered. Upon receipt of a death notification, Yahoo! will immediately delete the corresponding accounts.

This blog entry was created to help make the process of accessing, managing and closing the deceased user’s online accounts as simple as possible for family members. If we have missed any other websites or social networks, please let us know and we will be sure to add that information.

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