We’ve all encountered it when we’ve lost friends or loved ones. Maybe it’s someone who’s Facebook account keeps sending you automated messages. Or a Gmail account that’s still active and sending out spam. It’s awkward and upsetting and sometimes a little creepy.
When people plan for their estate after they die, it’s a fairly standard affair. Have a lawyer draw up a will, make sure people know if you’re OK with life support, distribute your assets.
But what about your digital assets? Who takes care of those?
Not every digital service has a process in place for dealing with the death of a user. Twitter and Snapchat, for instance, have no way to transfer ownership after death. An immediate family member can email a death certificate, but that will only shut down the account, it won’t give you access.
Facebook and Google, however, have two different, but comprehensive approaches to making sure your digital afterlife is in the right hands. And this Valentine’s Day, when our minds are on the special people we have (or don’t have) in our life, it’s the perfect time to make some arrangements.
Here’s how to set them up.
Grab your laptop (there’s lots to read in the settings, so I find it works better on a computer, rather than mobile) and head over to Facebook. Get sucked in by the notifications, memes, and occasional useful/interesting post, click your account icon, and choose Settings. Once you’re there, stare in despair at the long list of seemingly useless menu options on the left and wonder which is the one you need.
After a second, realize what you need was right in front of you all along. Facebook has made the smart decision to not bury the setting and added Memorialization Settings to the main menu for your account. That’s our target.
Once the settings expand, you can choose a friend to be the legacy contact for your account. This person will be able to manage your page once they’ve requested your account be memorialized. They’ll be able to change your picture, manage posts made to your page, and respond to friend requests. They won’t be able to post as you or like and respond as you on the site. They can also request that your account be deleted from Facebook.
Once you choose a legacy contact from your friends, you can message them right away…or maybe talk to them. Nothing is more bracing than getting a “You get to handle my Facebook when I’m dead” message in your inbox.
You can also allow your legacy contact to download a copy of photos and videos you uploaded, wall posts, your profile and contact info, events, and your friends list by selecting Data Archive Permission.
If you’d rather your Facebook page not persist after you’re gone, you can choose that it’s deleted instead. Click Request your account be deleted after you pass away and confirm on the pop-up. Just know that, once someone reports and confirms your to Facebook, your account will be wiped and there will be no way to recover anything.
Overall, it’s a very measured approach that gives you a nice amount of say-so in how your Facebook presence is handled after your death.
Google does things a little bit differently. Opting for a “dead man’s drop” approach. First off, don’t go to the settings for your Google account, you’ll only frustrate yourself trying to find the right ones. Instead head right to the Inactive Account Manager at myaccount.google.com/inactive. You can get to the page via Settings > Data & Personalization and then scrolling to the Download, delete, or make a plan for your data section and selecting Make a plan for your account, but the link is faster.