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What Happens to One’s Social Media & Digital Footprint When They Die?

Last year a colleague died suddenly and tragically.  It was a tremendous shock to the community and people showed up in droves to pay their respects.  Last week a request to endorse this person popped up on LinkedIn and I was immediately thrown right back to last year.  This left me thinking about what is the best way to handle a deceased person’s presence on social media?  What will happen to their social media accounts and digital footprint in general?

Another case presented itself last week when a lady I worked with spoke to this regarding her mother.  Her mom had died 2 years ago and was very active in several different interest groups – all connected on Facebook. Her feeling was to leave her mother’s Facebook profile in place as her friends were still commenting on group activities they had done, how much fun they had had and how they would have loved her to be able to join them.

What do you think?  Should the deceased remain on social media? Who has the legal authority to decide this?  What if there is no prior agreement on this? What if the usernames and passwords are not known by the surviving family?

Consider also that the computer or laptop may have a separate password and additionally how would you know if there is a specific file, or where the file is that contains a list of the deceased’s posted profiles and passwords?  I don’t know that many people keep an up-to-date virtual or physical list of groups they have posted profiles to and the corresponding passwords.  To manage this issue I write the group name, username and password into an address book.  Next, I have a sheet with my will that informs my Estate Trustee of my computer password and where the address book is kept.

Another thing to consider is to make a list of all the groups you belong to, along with the corresponding usernames and passwords.  Personally I do not have this list as a file on my laptop, but rather a printed copy is included with my important papers.

With all of our online accounts and social media presence there are compelling reasons to get things organized to help prevent endless hours and aggravation for those trying to close off accounts and profiles.  Recently in Canadian news, a 72 year old widow was told she would have to get a court order to retrieve her deceased husband’s Apple ID password to access their account on their Apple iPad.  In addition to the emotional pain and anguish, going to court can also drain financial resources that I am very sure the family would rather delegate to other sources. To see the full article from the CBC News, please click here.

If you’re not sure what is important to have organized or how to do this then click on the link below to purchase your PDF copy or hard copy of the Taking Care of Business – Executors Workbook to help you get started on being organized.  You can connect with me via email or telephone, leave a comment here on the site or click the contact tab at the bottom of the screen if you are reading this post on the website. Don’t forget to join in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter too!

Until next time,


Katherine Downey is the #1 Funeral Preplanning Professional in Canada for the fourth time. She is a professional educator, author, licensed funeral director and insurance advisor. To set an appointment or have your questions answered, please contact Kat directly.

7 replies
  1. Karen Armstrong says:

    This is such a real point to consider these days Kat. I too have witnessed people’s profile after they have passed and it feels awkward. I am happy that I have a social media expert who has my list of passwords as well as your executors workbook to organize our important data. You play such an important role in the well being of society. Thank you!

    • Kat says:

      Thank you Karen Armstrong for reading and your insightful reply to the blog. It is certainly shocking and awkward as well for me to see a deceased friend or colleague on social media. Also as you mentioned I too am thrilled that I have a social media assistant that keeps track of my profiles, passwords, and usernames. It is unbelievable how many different items there are to keep track of this information for the research and production of the Taking Care of Business workbook. Thank you so much Karen for you sincere endorsement. Kindest Regards, Kat

  2. Susan says:

    I always wondered about what happened to people’s accounts because I know of a few people who have passed away and I wonder about their pictures, videos and other things that no one has access too. I just had a friend who lost her husband a month ago and watching what she has had to go through has really made me realize I need to look into my options. Most people think about a will and trust or something like that but things like getting into his email, phone, personal bank account, social media, etc. she had no idea because they had never gotten around to doing anything…they had been meaning too but we know what happens. I found ThoseILove last week and am grateful to have one place to put all my information for my spouse and things for my kids too which makes my heart so happy. I feel it takes a tremendous burden off of those who are already grieving.

    • Kat says:

      Hi Susan thank you for reading this blog and commenting on it. Congratulations for taking massive action as well. Be sure to record your main password to access this account for safe keeping.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] As always please be sure that your trusted representative knows your social media user names and passwords.  For more information on what happens to their social media after a loved one passes, please click here to see my previous blog. […]

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