Digital Afterlife: What Happens to Internet Accounts When Someone Dies?

Digital Afterlife: What Happens to Internet Accounts When Someone Dies?

With death comes grief – and a host of other difficult decisions, mundane details and crucial choices. Among the many things you’ll have to deal with are how to access and/or cancel your loved one’s various online accounts and subscriptions.

If your loved one has not left a list of usernames and passwords or clear instructions for what they want done with their accounts and who should be in charge of carrying out these final wishes, it can be difficult to know what to do or how to get control.

We’ve compiled some basic information to help you begin this difficult but necessary process.

Online Banking

If an account isn’t held jointly or in a trust, which is usually the case, it won’t be accessible until the deceased’s estate is settled in court.

A judge may, however, issue a letter allowing the person’s executor or estate administrator to access the account solely to pay final expenses, such as funeral costs.

Just keep in mind that family members and / or heirs should not attempt to forge the deceased’s signature, pay bills or sign checks in his or her name. This is fraud, as is any unauthorized access to someone’s bank account.

Social Media

Each social media site has its own policy for handling accounts of deceased members. In some cases, you may need to prove that the death has occurred and that you have been authorized to act on behalf of the deceased before you can access or delete the account.

For example, Facebook’s policy states that a deceased person’s page will be memorialized. This means no one can log into the account and no new friend requests can be accepted. Any Facebook user can send a private message to the account, but only current friends can share memories on the timeline. Posts made by the deceased will remain on the page and be visible to the people they were originally shared with.

We’ve collected the policies for the most common social media sites for you. A simple Google search should help you find these pages for any other accounts your loved one may have had.

Cell Phone Contracts

To cancel or transfer a cell phone contract after the death of your loved one, simply call the provider’s support number and tell the representative what you want to do and why. You should not be charged a fee for any action taken on the account after death.

You can follow the links below to view the policy for some of the larger carriers or simply call the company’s support number to speak with a representative.

You should have the following information on hand when you call, just in case the representative needs it to access the account or verify your claim:

  • Account holder’s name
  • Mobile phone number of the deceased
  • Date of passing
  • Last 4 digits of the customer’s Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Your name and number (in case they need to get in touch with you afterward)
  • A death certificate, obituary, funeral card, probate letter or legal court document

Other Accounts to Consider

From automatically renewing subscriptions to dating profiles and more, there are many other accounts you’ll want to look into. We’ve provided the current help pages for each site, but it may sometimes be necessary to contact a representative. This information can be found on each site.

Online Business


Dating Websites

Subscriptions, Memberships and More

These accounts can be cancelled by contacting the customer service department.

  • Netflix
  • Hulu Plus
  • Amazon Prime
  • Credit cards
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Utilities like internet, cable and phone

National Cremation Society is one of the oldest and largest networks of cremation services in the nation. We’re dedicated to helping families with final needs. If you have an immediate need please call (855) 469-9474. If you would like to discuss how you can preplan your final arrangements, please contact us today.

Special thanks to Samantha Maiden, service manager of National Cremation Portland/Tigard, OR for her support and contributions to this post.