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Your Social Media Legacy: Pre-Planning On Instagram

September 30, 2021
Over 1 billion of us have an Instagram account filled with personal images and videos. What happens to it all after we're no longer here and is there anything we can do to plan ahead?
Written By Sharon HartungSeptember 30, 2021

With 1 billion active monthly users, Instagram is the second most popular social networking site in the world. Designed predominately for mobile app use, anyone can easily share photos and videos with their followers. More recently, Instagram introduced Reels to allow for more accessible video creation as well.

Instagram also has a live stream feature, called Instagram Live and in-app video editing feature, called Reels, which individuals and businesses alike can use to educate and entertain their audience. Shameless plug time… you can watch myself and Arin Goldgut talking about digital assets on Epilogue’s IGTV!

But now, back to Instagram’s legacy features. What does it offer and what does the social networking giant leave to be desired?

Instagram Legacy Features

Despite Instagram being owned by Facebook, the two platforms actually differ quite a bit when it comes to legacy planning features. Although Instagram has options to address and acknowledge the death of an account holder, it doesn’t have any pre-planning tools for people to make decisions on how they want their account handled after they pass away while they are still alive. Instagram also doesn’t offer a Legacy Contact feature like Facebook does. Also unlike Facebook, Instagram doesn’t have any provisions for incapacity.

So, what happens if an Instagram account holder passes away?

How Instagram handles an account when someone dies

If an Instagram account holder passes away, there are essentially two options for their account: Memorialization and deletion.

For “Memorialization“, a friend or family member must submit a request for a loved one’s account to be memorialized. They will have to provide:

  • Full name and Instagram handle of the deceased person
  • Proof of death (like an obituary or death certificate)
  • Date of death

Once memorialized, the account will have the word ‘remembering’ appear next to the username. All existing posts and videos are visible to the original audience they were shared with but no more posts can be uploaded. No one will be able to log in to the account and the profile won’t appear on the Explore page.

For example, after the traffic death of Bollywood actor ​​Sushant Singh Rajput in 2020, Instagram memorialized his account so friends and fans could pay their respects and celebrate his life.

instagram legacy remembering

The alternative to Memorialization is Deletion. In this case, an authorized person must complete a form called “Removal Request for Deceased Person on Instagram.” They must provide proof of death in order to have an account permanently deleted.

If neither of these options are chosen, the account will remain live and vulnerable to potential security breaches.

Instagram’s Social Legacy Score is 2 out of 5

Since Instagram addresses the death of the account holder after the fact but doesn’t offer any pre-planning options or incapacity options, this platform receives a Social Legacy Score of 2 out of 5.

How Instagram handles accounts if someone becomes incapacitated

At the time of writing this article, there are no features in place to deal with the incapacity of an account holder. A search for the appropriate terms comes up empty.

instagram incapacity

Other legacy planning considerations for Instagram

Instagram is often used as a digital photo album, so it’s essential people backup their photos to the cloud or on a hard drive to keep them safe in the long term. If you wish to have your account memorialized, a good way to let your loved ones know is to complete a Social Media Will. That way, your photos and videos will be safe on your Instagram account for your loved ones to access for as long as Instagram remains in existence.

For those who monetize their Instagram, having a plan in place for how you want that income handled and what you want to have happen to your Instagram account becomes even more important.

How Instagram could improve its Social Legacy Score

In a previous blog post, we gave Facebook a Social Legacy Score of 4. Since Facebook owns Instagram, they could boost Instagram’s Social Legacy Score by integrating the same pre-planning and legacy features as Facebook has

As of yet, there have been no announcements made with any plans to integrate Facebook and Instagram accounts.

We’d love to see a published roadmap for future development of more comprehensive pre-planning features for both death and incapacity.

Written By Sharon Hartung
Sharon Hartung, Captain (Ret’d), PEng, TEP, is the founder of Your Digital Undertaker®, which provides Digital Executor® webinars and consulting for advisors and clients on the tech management aspects of digital assets in estate planning. Sharon is the author of “Your Digital Undertaker” and soon to be published “Digital Executor®: Unraveling the New Path for Estate Planning”. Sharon is a committee member on the STEP Digital Assets SIG. Twitter @Undertakertech and website: Your Digital Undertaker