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What happens to your Facebook account after you die?

5:40 AM, Jun 25, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON -- One group estimates that more than a half a million American Facebook users will die this year, but what happens to your Facebook page after you die?

A Washington, D.C. woman became frustrated and upset after she tried to remove a deceased relative's page, but could not.

"Right now, it's just very painful for all in the family to just see this sitting there," said Diana Gonzalez, who is coping with her sister's death.

Gonzalez's sister Aurra died suddenly last year. Her sister left behind an active Facebook profile; a painful reminder to gonzalez that her sister is gone.

"First of all, she shows up as a friend and family. "Aurra Kings." She's always there," Gonzalez explained.

So Gonzalez wanted to delete her sister's page, but without her sister's Facebook password Gonzalez was stumped. She tried over and over to get help from Facebook.

"There must be some way to reach someone to say what do you need from me so we can do this," she said. "I didn't find anything."

Gonzalez searched the web for ways to remove a deceased person's Facebook page, but says she only found other people with the same problem.

"No one really had an answer," Gonzalez said. "I couldn't even really find a phone number to call [Facebook]."

So NBC News contacted Facebook through media channels.
Facebook said it does honor requests from close family members to deactivate a deceased person's account.

In fact, Facebook says it has two options: You can request to either "memorialize" a Facebook page or delete it altogether.

It is fairly easy to find many memorial Facebook pages online for the general public -- and even celebrities.

However, Gonzalez wanted her sister's page deleted forever.

"One more process I need to get through on her behalf," she said. 

These are the instructions Facebook provided:

1) Click the flower or star in the right hand corner of your page.
2) Click help. 
3) Click "Visit the Help Center"
4) Type in the search box "deceased user delete"
5) Choose "memorialize" or "remove account"

"I'm going to go with 'please remove this account,'" Gonzalez said.

Facebook requires you to fill out an online form and it requires you upload documentation. Gonzalez needed her sister's death certificate and proof she was a lawful representative of the deceased.

"...and I have those," she stated. 

Gonzalez submitted her request, then she received an email from Facebook acknowledging it was sent.

Facebook said it works to delete the account as quickly as possible.

"It wasn't that hard," Gonzalez said, "but I wish I hadn't had to dig so far for it... it's hard emotionally to do this because it's a little piece of her that is going away."

Facebook honored Diana Gonzalez's request to remove her sister's page and her sister's Facebook profile no longer exists.

In the meantime, Twitter works the same way, but you mail or fax the required documents instead.



NBC News

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