Grieving through Facebook has been previously discussed on Epilawg (see Jen Santini's post, Grieving in the Digital Age), but I was again reminded of this topic as the result of a recent Minneapolis Star Tribute article by Katie Humphrey, Facebook is Changing the Way We Grieve. Ms. Humphrey reminds us that, “[d]eath doesn't kill a digital footprint.”
Recent clients have also brought this issue to my attention as I assist in administering the estates of deceased loved ones. The question is becoming more common, “What do I do with the Facebook profile and email accounts?” I do not have an easy answer to this question. Each website, email and social network provider has a different policy and protocol upon a person's passing.
I encourage clients, through their estate planning, to consider their online presence and create a plan for dealing with these items. At the very least, make a list of your accounts and passwords so that family members are aware of your online lives.
Facebook has addressed the issue of handling a users death and users are becoming more aware of the options. Facebook allows a users profile to be preserved through a “memorialized” profile. Memorializing a profile allows approved friends to continue posting but discontinues the profile form appearing in public searches. See Jen Santini's prior post for helpful links in learning more about memorializing a Facebook profile.
The issue of dealing with a deceased loved ones online presence is not going away any time soon. Instead, the problem will be amplified as younger generations age and pass away. My advice to you is to speak with your loved ones and encourage everyone to create a plan for dealing with these accounts.