What happens to your Facebook account when you die? – the only question more confusing than what happens to you after you die?
There are really only two options for friends and family of a deceased individual. The first option, memorialization, freezes the account in time – allowing it to serve as a sort of public gravestone. Once a person dies, their friend or family member must request for the account to be memorialized. Once it is, friends and family can come and leave messages, and the privacy of said page remains in death what the account holder designated in life. There is no way to control any elements of the page once it is memorialized – a fact that left people a bit upset at times.
The second option is to request for the account to be permanently deleted. This involves proving to Facebook that you're a family member – and it often not as easy as it sounds.
That's changing for the better today – at least a little bit. Facebook is now giving friends and family members a little more control over their loved ones' digital afterlife.
Facebook is now letting users set a legacy contact, who'll serve as a sort of overseer for their account when they pass. You can set this up right now. All you have to do is go to your security settings and select "legacy contact". From there, choose one of your friends to be your account holder in the unfortunate event of your untimely demise.
Your legacy contact will be notified of their role when your account is memorialized – unless you want to tell them ahead of time.
So, what can a legacy contact do? They can't log-in to your account, for one. So your private messages are theoretically safe when you die. What they can do it write a "pinned post" for your profile – a message to friends about your death, perhaps. They can also respond to friend requests and update your profile picture and cover photo.
They can't unfriend people and they can't go back and edit/delete old posts.
And as the Wall Street Journal points out, you only get one legacy contact. Choose wisely.
If you don't want your Facebook account outliving you, the new legacy contact option inside your settings allows you to request to have your account permanently deleted when you die. Of course, Facebook will only know that you've died when contacted by a friend or a family member – who many argue about deletion vs. memorialization. It's odd that Facebook says "if you don't want a Facebook account after you pass away, you can request to have your account permanently deleted," right?
It's weird that you have to think about this at all – but death is weird. And so is Facebook. It's probably worth the five seconds it'll take to designate a legacy contact. Make sure you pick someone who will put up flattering profile pictures when you're gone.