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Your Social Media Legacy: Pre-Planning On LinkedIn

April 29, 2021
What happens to your LinkedIn account when you die? Discover the pre-planning tools available to help you protect your digital legacy.
Written By Sharon HartungApril 29, 2021

The modern digital business card, LinkedIn has been around since 2003 with an estimated 740 million members in more than 200 countries. Certainly, more than just a virtual business network, LinkedIn is a platform that serves to connect people, organizations, and groups with the mission to make the world’s professionals more productive and successful.

So, where is this social media staple when it comes to helping their aging member base plan for and deal with legacy pre-planning?

LinkedIn’s Legacy Features

LinkedIn now offers 3 options when it comes to the death of an account holder:

  • An authorized person can request to close the account
  • An authorized person can request to memorialize the account
  • An unauthorized person can report a member as deceased

There currently are not any pre-planning tools that let account holders choose how they would want their accounts handled after death.

As of now, they are relying on the fact that people are having these conversations with their loved ones. But, according to a recent survey run by Epilogue and Your Digital Undertaker, these conversations aren’t happening. Almost 70% of social media users aren’t even aware pre-planning is an option at all. Legacy planning is still very much a new conversation and I feel part of the onus is on social media service providers to shine a light on it.

How LinkedIn handles an account when someone dies

As mentioned, LinkedIn does not currently have any pre-planning tools (advance selections) with respect to addressing an account member’s wishes and preference upon death. However, it now has options for those “authorized” to address a deceased person’s account, namely, memorialize or close a deceased member’s account.

LinkedIn also allows other LinkedIn members “who are not authorized” to act on a deceased member’s behalf to report the death of a member.

If you are an authorized person, LinkedIn will require you to provide legal documentation to prove it such as:

  • A letter of administration issued by a court
  • A Letter of testamentary issued by a court
  • A Letter of representation issued by a court
  • Other court order appointing you an authorized representative for the deceased member’s estate

You’ll also be asked to provide:

  • The member’s full name
  • LinkedIn profile URL
  • Your relationship to the deceased
  • Member’s email address
  • Date of death
  • Copy of the member’s death certificate

If you choose to memorialize someone’s account, the word “In Remembrance”, appears under the member’s name.

Source: LinkedIn

LinkedIn’s Social Legacy Score

While LinkedIn offers more options than Twitter, it still doesn’t offer account holders the option to plan ahead and select how they would want their accounts handled after they die. Its current features only let someone make those requests after the fact.

LinkedIn is still very much lacking when it comes to pre-planning tools, that’s why its Social Legacy Score is only a 2 out of 5.

LinkedIn’s Social Legacy Score is 2 out of 5

LinkedIn has helpful information to address a deceased account holder, including a newly introduced option to memorialize a deceased member’s account.

Having said that, there are no options when it comes to addressing an incapacitated member.

When it comes to the new memorialization feature, there are still many unanswered questions, despite some helpful Q&A. Particularly around post-mortem privacy:

  • Will everyone see the “In Remembrance” tag or just the member’s network?
  • Will the privacy settings change or remain the same?
  • Can an “authorized” person remove content, change settings, or manage the account in any way?

Until these questions are answered and pre-planning options are introduced, LinkedIn will sit not-so-pretty with a score of 2.

See how the other social platforms stack up:

How LinkedIn handles accounts if someone becomes incapacitated

LinkedIn does not have any options or help documentation to deal with an incapacitated account member or someone acting on their behalf.

Other legacy planning considerations for LinkedIn

Up until recently, there was only the option to closing down the account of a deceased LinkedIn member. However, LinkedIn quietly released its new memorialization functionality recently.

As an expert in the digital assets and estate planning world, I was surprised to trip over it a few weeks ago. I found it strange there wasn’t much media or an implementation date on the help page as to when it became available. The Wall Street Journal reported back in 2019 that LinkedIn was working on it, and another article in August of 2020 mentioning it was forthcoming. But it arrived quietly and without fanfare.

Kudos to LinkedIn for building out its legacy features, but if nobody knows they exist they aren’t as effective as they could be.

Since there is the potential your account may be deleted after you pass, it’s important to think about how you want the content of your account dealt with. James Norris of the UK Digital Legacy Association reminds you to back up or download information regularly if the content held on your social media platforms is important. Great advice from a best practice perspective for the living, and certainly a planning concern if you want to make any of the content available for your loved ones after you pass away.

Back up or download information regularly if the content held on your social media platforms is important.
James Noris, UK Digital Legacy Association

Finally, when it comes to LinkedIn, it’s essential to remember the variety of ways it’s used. Although the scope of this article is for our personal LinkedIn accounts, it gets complicated fast when you consider business accounts, and people managing groups or organizational pages.

What to do if a loved one passes away

If someone you know passes away and you’re the executor of the estate you have to request the memorialization or deletion of their account.

You’ll have to provide the documentation outline above to prove you’re “authorized” to act on their behalf.

If you aren’t an authorized person, you can still let LinkedIn know of the account member’s death by filling out this form. You will have to provide something, like an obituary, to prove the person is, in fact, deceased.

Based on the help documentation, once contacted by an authorized person, LinkedIn will memorize or close the member’s account.

How LinkedIn could improve its Social Legacy Score

It is a step forward for LinkedIn to provide a choice for an account to be memorialized or closed after a LinkedIn member’s death. That said, the key is really legacy planning.

And planning implies a member would have to document their wishes and preferences on how they want to be honored while they are still living. Planning would require the member to leave instructions that let their fiduciary (executor) or other authorized persons know what those wishes are (e.g. How will your family or fiduciary know if you want your LinkedIn Account left “In Remembrance” or not?). And as of now, LinkedIn doesn’t offer features to let you do this.

That’s why I’m so proud to have helped Epilogue develop the Social Media Will. It lets you document how you want your social media profiles handled if you can no longer manage them yourself and can be easily shared with your executor or fiduciary to take all the guesswork out of how you want your accounts handled. It’s quick, easy, and best of all, free of charge. Make your Social Media Will today and protect your social afterlife.

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