19-year-old daughter Becky loved sharing her life on Facebook. When she fell terminally ill with a brain tumor, and lost speech and movement, her mother Louise would log in with Becky to help her stay in touch with her friends. Becky died in 2010 but Louise continued to access her account to feel close to her daughter. But then Facebook locked or 'memorialised' Becky's account.
When 19-year-old Becky was diagnosed with a brain tumor, she could no longer maintain her Facebook page on her own. Instead, her mother Louise helped her and together the two of them used Becky's account to let people know how she was doing.
After Becky passed away, Louise continued to access the account to read what people had to say about Becky and how they spoke with her in private communication. Louise found it comforting and it reassured her that her daughter would not be forgotten.
Unfortunately, Facebook memorialized the account without notice. They made it so that Becky's account could not be accessed publicly and that no one could make changes to the account.
Louise was locked out without warning.
All of the precious memories that comforted her were denied to her. BBC News has more on this story in a story titled "How do we protect our digital legacy after death?"
This is becoming an increasing problem for grieving families.
The issue is not just isolated to Facebook. Other social media companies do similar things after an account holder passes away. It highlights the need for options if you want your family to be able to access your social media after you pass away.
In the end, you really need to engage an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you navigate the applicable laws and specific policies of the various technology companies.
Reference: BBC News (April 6, 2015) "How do we protect our digital legacy after death?"