In this ultra-connected world, we are all amassing huge amounts of personal digital data, which can leave a large ‘paper’ trail for our loved ones to follow when we pass away. As sombre as it sounds, death is inevitable.
If you’ve recently lost a loved one or you’re getting your affairs in order to make life easier for those you’ll leave behind, you’ll want to know how accessing digital accounts after death works. Read on to learn how to deal with online accounts after death, what happens to a bank account when someone dies, and the practical steps you can take to make it easier for those left behind.
What’s on this page
- What happens to your online accounts when you die?
- What can I do to set up my online accounts for after my death?
- How to deal with social media when someone dies
- What happens to a bank account when someone dies?
- Can you access a deceased person’s bank account?
- Withdrawing money from a bank account after death
- Should I back everything up before I die?
What happens to your online accounts when you die?
Here’s what happens to some of the most popular online platforms when you die:
- Removal of a deceased member’s profile can be requested
- Information about the deceased person is required
- Licence cannot be transferred
- Your library is lost after your death
Snapchat and Tumblr:
- A verified family member can request to have a deceased user’s account deleted
- Death certificate may be required
Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL:
- Accounts can be deleted
- Proof of death is required
While there are several ways loved ones can obtain access to your accounts when you’ve died, they tend to be lengthy processes and will only add stress to an already trying time. If you want to be prepared, there are several online services that allow you to designate legacy contacts or grant access after a set period of inactivity on your accounts.
What can I do to set up my online accounts for after my death?
One of the most important things you can do to enable your loved ones to access your online platforms when you die is to set up a password manager emergency kit.
Password managers house the keys to your digital accounts, looking after information such as bank numbers, card details and a wealth of other important data. In preparing for the event of your death, they can be a good one-stop shop for all the information a loved one would need to access your accounts. This is a feature commonly called an Emergency Kit. The emergency kit contains all of your information and can be downloaded onto a separate hard drive or USB and stored in a safe place.
Password manager services typically allow you to add emergency contacts and specify a time period between them requesting access and it being granted, unless you intervene. You can usually set all of this up by visiting your password manager service dashboard.
How to deal with social media after someone dies
Social media accounts can be an incredibly emotional thing to deal with as a loved one or friend. They will likely contain photos and content that you might wish to preserve and keep in some form.
On Facebook and Instagram, you can add a legacy contact to your account. This will allow that person to memorialise your profile, which means a banner on your profile will indicate that you are deceased, your friends won’t receive birthday notifications for you and you won’t show up in public search results. People will be able to comment on your timeline if your privacy settings allow it.
While this may seem a trivial aspect of dealing with someone’s death, it can provide a place for people to share memories and help them grieve.
While Twitter and Linkedin don’t have legacy contact options, a family member can request your account to be deactivated and will need to provide proof of death.
How to close someone’s social media account after death
In some cases, it’s much less painful for family and friends to close social media accounts in the event of a death, rather than to memorialise. This is how you can go about doing closing someone’s social media account on different platforms:
Family members can immediately remove a loved one’s Facebook account by providing proof of death, such as the death certificate.
A person authorised to act on behalf of the estate of the deceased, or an immediate family member, can close a Twitter account. You’ll need to provide the deceased’s username and a copy of the death certificate.
Instagram requires proof of death, such as a death certificate, to close the account.
Immediate family members and executors of an estate can close a deceased person’s YouTube account. Under certain circumstances, YouTube may provide content from the deceased person’s online account.
Family members or friends will need to provide the deceased person’s name, email, a link to the Linkedin profile, their own relationship with the deceased, the date the person died, and the company they most recently worked at.
What happens to a bank account when someone dies?
There are formal legal processes you need to follow when handling a deceased person’s financial affairs. Firstly, a representative of the deceased will need to contact the relevant bank or building society to notify them of the death. This will usually be the executor of the will or someone who has been appointed to act as an administrator if there’s no valid will. It’s important to tell the bank as soon as possible; failure to do this or continuing to withdraw money from the deceased’s bank account is against the law.
The bank will advise you what happens next, but you’ll probably need to provide several forms of ID, along with a copy of the death certificate and the will. Once you’ve notified them of the death and provided the necessary paperwork, the bank will then freeze the deceased’s account. Any direct debits or other payments in and out of the account will be stopped until the grant of probate has been awarded (more on this later).
You might also be wondering “what happens to a joint account when one person dies?” The good news is the rules tend to be much simpler. If a couple holds a joint bank account and one of them dies, the funds simply pass to the surviving account holder without the need for a grant of probate or letters of administration if there’s no will. However, probate may still be required if there are other assets that aren’t jointly owned.
How to prepare your Google account for your death
There are billions of Google account users around the world, and it’s a popular resource for both work and personal information. To prepare your Google account for your death, you can set up Google’s Inactive Account Manager. This function automatically gives control of your account to someone you choose after a set period of inactivity.
Find out more about how to set up Google’s Inactive Account Manager.
Can you access a deceased person’s bank account?
To access a deceased person’s bank account, you’ll need to have completed these two steps:
- Registered the death – you’ll need to do this within five days if you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, or within eight days if you live in Scotland.
- Applied for probate – where there is a will, there will be an ‘executor’ identified within it who will be in charge of handling the deceased’s property. Even if there isn’t a will, the application process is the same. Only when the executor has original copies of the will and the death certificate will probate be granted.
Only once probate or letters of administration have been granted can the executor legally withdraw money from a bank account after death. However, in some cases, the bank may allow you to access limited funds without probate to pay for death-related expenses such as funeral fees (more on this below).
Withdrawing money from a bank account after death
It’s important to remember that you’ll normally need to have been granted probate (or letters of administration) before you can access a deceased person’s bank account, unless of course it’s a joint account and you’re the other person named on the account.
As probate can take several months (depending on how complex the estate is), some banks will allow you to withdraw a limited sum of money to cover related expenses such as probate fees and funeral costs in the interim. The amount varies between banks but it’s usually no more than £20,000.
Once probate has been granted, the executor can then withdraw money from the deceased’s bank account and distribute it to the beneficiaries named in the will. If someone died without leaving a valid will, the estate is distributed according to the intestacy rules.
What if I have two-factor authentication set up?
In order to enhance security, many apps for services such as banking and social media have two-factor authentication, which means your loved ones will need access to your phone or email so they can receive a code sent to you by the provider.
You can prepare for this by adding a second face ID or fingerprint to your phone, allowing a trusted friend or loved one access to your mobile. Options will differ between Android and Apple phones, but a quick search or chat with product support should allow you to complete the process.
Should I back everything up before I die?
If you’re concerned about your loved ones having access to data or other information after you die, you could choose to back it all up to a portable harddrive or USB (depending on how much there is) and leave this in a safe place or with a trusted family member or friend.
The importance of having a will
Most people have a will by the time they die, which makes some elements of sorting through your data much easier. However, younger people tend to have more online accounts and often don’t have a will in place.
It’s pretty quick and simple to set up an online will, or if that feels too daunting, you could simply write a digital letter of your wishes, including your account passwords and information, and store it on a hard drive or USB.