Facebook actually has an FAQ section dedicated to the three options people have with a deceased individual’s account: memorializing the account, requesting to delete the account, or downloading the contents of the account, and then having it deleted. Also, there is a Facebook app you can download, called “If I die,” that you can set up at any point before your death to help put your social accounts in order and send out a last message if you wish.
Memorializing the account means turning it into a page where people can leave comments and celebrate your life, much like a Facebook Fan Page. Deleting the account means that all information and data will be completely removed from Facebook. Tagged pictures will remain if someone else originally uploaded or posted them, but all things originating from the deceased’s account will be removed from the site. Downloading the contents of a Facebook account requires a formal request discussed below where Facebook verifies you as acceptable to download the information, and then the process begins from there.
Option 1: Memorializing Your Account
Having an executor of a Will is common, but also becoming common is having a digital executor to take care of those old emails you saved, your photo albums on Flickr, and your Facebook profile. If you have a digital executor, that person can take control of your Facebook profile when you are gone and take care of things on your behalf, no questions asked.
However, if you don’t have a digital executor, there are a few ways in which to handle your Facebook page after you pass. One of which is to have it memorialized, which either you or anyone else can request. When an account is memorialized, only confirmed friends can see the timeline or locate it in the search bar. The timeline will no longer appear in the suggestions section of the home page, and only friends and family can leave posts on the profile in remembrance.
In order to protect the privacy of the deceased, Facebook does not share the login information for the account with anyone. Once an account has been memorialized, it is completely secured and cannot be accessed or altered by anyone. The request can be filled out and then Facebook handles the memorializing, notifying the requestor via email once it is complete. You can find a full FAQ here, and you can fill out a request for an account to be memorialized here.
Option 2: Have Your Account Removed/Deleted
Another way in which your account can be managed is to have it completely removed. In order to do so, submit a request here and Facebook will process it as a special request for verified immediate family members. This option will completely delete the timeline and all associated content from Facebook for good, so no one can view it. All pictures and posts originating from the profile in question will be removed.
For all special requests, Facebook requires verification that you are an immediate family member or executor. Any requests to delete the profile will not be processed if they are unable to verify your relationship to the deceased. You may also use the special request form if you have a special request regarding the user in question and their account.
Examples of documentation Facebook will accept include the deceased's birth/death certificate, or proof of authority under local law that you are the lawful representative of the deceased or his/her estate. Peruse the section on special requests and removals for even more information.
Option 3: An App That Handles Your Last Messages
One last option not accomplished directly via Facebook is a third party application called “If I Die.” "If I Die" has videos that explain the different things that can happen to your Facebook profile when you die. The first and only application of it’s kind, “If I Die” allows you to create a video, message, or text message that can be scheduled to send after you pass. The application can be added on Facebook here.
Adding the application on Facebook allows you to have it personalize a profile page for you. You can leave a video or report a death of somebody else directly through the application. Everything is done via the application.
In order to schedule a message to be sent out after you die, you click on the “Leave a message” button, and it brings you to a screen, where you can leave and receive personal, public, and private messages from other application users after you or a loved one passes.
This application is useful in providing closure and letting everyone in your life know that you love them prior to having your account deleted or memorialized via one of the steps above. They have a YouTube channel devoted to video clips introducing the application, ways to best use it, and all of its features.
In Facebook’s FAQ, they do a thorough job of offering options to ensure that a deceased individual’s privacy is protected while others can choose to remember them through their profile, if they so wish. If there is ever a question of intellectual property related to the deceased’s profile, you can report a problem, ask a question, or seek further guidance from Facebook in how to handle it.
Additional reporting provided by Danielle Deschaine.