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Ways to Manage Your Loved One's Online Presence After Death

When a loved one passes away, friends and family may still have his or her belongings or physical reminders of the life he or she led. When you hold on to a cherished photo or gift from your deceased friend, you give yourself a chance to remember his or her legacy when the moment is right.

Family members handle the distribution of property according to the person's individual will so that the people closest to the deceased have something to remember him or her by.

But in today's society, you may also have to encounter issues of property and privacy online. With billions of internet users going online every day, each person possesses a host of information and data on sites such as a private email account, Facebook, or Twitter. What happens to all of that information when a person dies?

We’ve researched internet policy for many social media and storage sites. Read this post to find out how internet sites handle death and what you can do to protect your loved one's online presence after he or she passes on.

Personal Email Accounts

How you should handle email messages for your deceased loved one depends on his or her service provider. Both Gmail and Hotmail have policies that allow family members access to the deceased’s account.

Google also allows people to designate an "inactive account manager" so that all account information and data can transfer to a third party in the event of death or emergency. You can also contact Google directly to close an account.

Yahoo!, however, claims the right to maintain privacy even after death. Their policy excludes survivorship as an adequate reason to gain access to the deceased's email account, except when forced by a legal subpoena.

For all other email services, read the fine print of the terms and conditions, and contact the email provider directly for more information.

YouTube

YouTube gives friends and family of deceased users to access account information under specific circumstances stated on their support page. Since YouTube partners with Google to create user accounts, the same rules about a designated "inactive account manager" apply for YouTube as well.

Facebook

User policy for Facebook's billions of followers provides two different options for profiles after death.

Facebook gives family and friends the option of transforming the deceased person's profile into a memorial page. This page type resembles the current profile-but doesn't allow for more friend requests. Only the existing friends will gain access to the memorial.

A memorial page also removes status updates and contact information. Instead of logging into the account, friends and family can voice their memories and love by writing on the wall. To notify Facebook of a person's death, contact Facebook directly and comply with their instructions.

Alternatively, friends or family members can opt to deactivate or delete a deceased person’s account by providing Facebook with proof of death, either in an obituary or a news article. Once you fill out the special contact form and supply proof of death, Facebook should delete the account within 90 days.

Much like Google's policy, Facebook allows users to assign a “legacy contact” to manage their profile after death. This designated person has access to all photos, videos, and contact information shared with Facebook over the years, and he or she can add or delete friends and update account information. However, if your friend or family member did not select a legacy contact during his or her life, you won’t be able to alter this information after death.

If you don't notify Facebook or select one of the above courses of action, your loved one's online profile will remain the same. Friends may receive future notifications and reminders about this person's birthday and other activities, and strangers can request to connect.

Keep these issues in mind when you decide whether to take online action to maintain or remove a Facebook profile.

Twitter

If you want to deactivate a Twitter account for a deceased person, contact Twitter Support. You'll need to provide evidence of death from an estate executor or a death certificate, and then Twitter will shut down the account in question.

However, based on Twitter's privacy policy, it is unlikely that you'll gain access to sensitive information from a private Twitter account even after a person's death.

Dropbox

Data storage start-up Dropbox does not specify a policy for transferring account information in the case of death. However, their terms of service indicate that they will delete any inactive account 90 days after the final login.

If you want to preserve your loved one's photos or documents before they get deleted, contact Dropbox directly.

Internet companies provide you with several options to manage a loved one's online presence after death-even if he or she neglected to leave you with login and password information. Remember these tips when you want to create a memorial or protect the privacy of your deceased friend or family member. And read the rest of our blog for more suggestions on coping with grief and loss.

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