Facebook is now making it easier for users to plan for their online afterlife.

If a Facebook user passes away and does not provide Facebook with any instructions prior to death, the family of the decedent may contact Facebook and request that the account be deleted. The family must provide proof of the death, such as a copy of a local obituary for the decedent or a copy of the death certificate. If the family prefers, the account can be “memorialized” after death, meaning that the account will be locked (i.e., no one can log in to respond to new friend requests). The decedent’s profile will remain visible to other Facebook users.

The downside of not providing Facebook any direction prior to death is that the user’s family must contact Facebook and successfully prove that (1) they are the family; and (2) the decedent did pass away. Also, if there is conflict within the family regarding this decision, this decision will only add to the stress of the family.

However, if a Facebook user wishes to plan for this aspect of their death, they can now either pick a “legacy contact” or check a box to permanently delete the account after the user’s death. If a legacy contact is provided to Facebook, this person will have the authority to manage the account after the user’s death. This means that the contact will have the authority to download and archive photos, posts and profile information, although they cannot access any private messages.