What Are the Legal Steps for Closing a Deceased Person's Social Media Accounts in North Carolina?

Understanding the Importance of Digital Legacy

In an increasingly digital world, the question of what happens to our online presence after we pass away is becoming ever more pertinent. For loved ones left behind, managing the digital footprint of the deceased can be a complex task, particularly when it comes to closing social media accounts. In North Carolina, as in many jurisdictions, there are specific legal steps that must be followed to handle these matters respectfully and lawfully.

Step 1: Identifying Social Media Accounts

The first step in closing a deceased person's social media accounts is to identify all the platforms on which the individual was active. This may include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social networking sites. It's also important to consider any other online accounts they may have had, such as email or online gaming profiles.

Step 2: Review Platform Policies

Each social media platform has its own policy regarding the deactivation or deletion of accounts belonging to deceased users. It's crucial to review these policies as they will guide the next steps and required documentation. For instance, Facebook allows a legacy contact to manage certain aspects of a deceased user's account or provides an option to permanently delete it.

Step 3: Gathering Required Documentation

To proceed with closing an account, you will need legal documentation proving your authority and the user's death. This typically includes a copy of the death certificate and documentation confirming your relationship to the deceased or your legal authority to act on behalf of their estate.

Step 4: Contacting Social Media Platforms

Once you have gathered all necessary documentation, you must contact each social media platform directly. This is usually done through their respective online help centers or customer support. You'll need to submit a request along with the documentation for review.

Step 5: Follow-up and Confirmation

After submitting your request, it's important to follow up with each platform to ensure that the account has been closed or memorialized according to your wishes. Keep records of all correspondence and confirmations for future reference.

Legal Considerations in North Carolina

In North Carolina, like many states, legislation such as the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) provides a framework for how digital assets are handled after someone's death. This law allows individuals to specify in a will or other estate planning document how their digital assets should be managed.

If no such instructions exist, then the terms of service agreements of each digital platform will usually determine what happens next. Hence, it's advisable for individuals to include digital assets in their estate planning and for executors and family members to consult with an attorney if they are unsure about their rights or responsibilities.

A Word on Privacy and Respect

It's vital to approach the closure of a deceased person's social media accounts with sensitivity and respect for their privacy and wishes. In some cases, families may choose to keep an account active as a memorial or decide collectively on the best course of action that honors the memory of their loved one.