If you’re one of the 2 billion users of Facebook, it might be a good time to set your account settings to include a “legacy contact”, basically someone who is able to access your account if you’re no longer around. I learned the hard way that having the login to Muriel’s account doesn’t actually make a difference because when Facebook finds out someone is deceased, they memorialize the account. Once they’ve “memorialized” a person’s account, even if you have the login, you can’t access the account. And since many of us spend time and have so many memories and connections via Facebook, to be locked out from it isn’t something you want to hear when you lose someone you love.
To my surprise when I wrote to Facebook, someone actually responded within a few days… According to Facebook, its policy is to memorialize an account once the account owner has passed away. This helps protect the loved one’s privacy and preserves their account as a place for friends and family to gather and share memories. Once an account is memorialized, even Facebook isn’t able to:
- Remove the account from its memorialized state
- Make changes to the Timeline or settings
- Provide login information
- Add friends to the account
So if you have a Facebook account, it’s probably a good idea to select a “legacy contact“. A legacy contact is someone you choose to look after your account if it’s memorialized. We didn’t get a chance to do this and I only found out about Facebook memorializing an account after Muriel passed away – I’m still not sure when/how Facebook did this as it seems someone would have had to report that she had passed away. From this experience, I think it’s a good idea to setup a legacy contact beforehand so that in case of your death this contact can:
- Write a pinned post for your profile (example: to share a final message on your behalf or provide information about a memorial service).
- Respond to new friend requests (example: old friends or family members who weren’t yet on Facebook)
- Update your profile picture and cover photo
- Request the removal of your account
- Set the option for your legacy contact to download a copy of what you’ve shared on Facebook
- Note: You must be 19 or older to select a legacy contact.
Fortunately, I downloaded Muriel’s profile while I still was able to access her account, so I have a history of her life on Facebook. I wish I can gain access to make some changes, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to set a legacy contact before I lost access… I hope this experience will help others out there be prepared because it sucks to be shut out of being able to remain “connected” with a loved one after he/she has passed.
Maybe one day Facebook will change it’s policy and allow spouses/significant others/family to be able to access an account even without a legacy contact. Like many things when losing someone we love, in spite of the pain and grief, it’s the people who live on that have to take care of the loved one’s affairs (even online ones).