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Facebook from the grave: How your account is managed after you die

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Posted at 5:21 PM, Mar 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-06 19:26:16-05

DENVER — For many, death is not the end — at least when it comes to Facebook.

Realistically, it could be the last thing on the minds of busy Americans, but Facebook does provide options for those concerned about their social legacies. 

Facebook allows legacy contacts — family members or close friends — to make decisions on behalf of a loved one who has died, ranging from account deletion to creating an online memorial. 

In order to report a Facebook member as deceased, an obituary, memorial card or death certificate is necessary. That courtesy can be done by any friend or family member, but control of the Facebook page afterwards defaults to the legacy contact should there be one. 

MORE | Assign a legacy contact to your account here

Denver7 made calls to Facebook to learn more about the process after a recent death in Colorado. A SWAT team ended the life of a suspect who allegedly was despondent and had a gun. 

After the man's death, his Facebook page became a sad reminder of the still unfolding story to a family in mourning. Internet trolls didn't help.

Facebook users from around the nation began commenting on the man's posts, taunting family and posting jokes. 

"I have a hard time imagining how anyone could be so pathetic as to taunt the family and friends of the very recently deceased," one family member wrote. 

Family and friends found supporters in the hundreds of comments. 

"A man lost his life, right or wrong, good or bad. The old saying applies here; 'If you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say it at all,'" a Facebook user wrote. "Good or bad, (the suspect) was a son, a brother. He was a United States Marine. I ask everyone to respect the good now and excuse and forgive the bad." 

One troll even admitted he simply wanted to cause grief.

"I like to make ppl [sic] angry and ruffle feathers," the user wrote. "I accomplished my goals." 

That's where a legacy contact could come in handy as a trusted person who could communicate with Facebook representatives and have the account deleted, or abusive content removed.

Legacy representatives can reach out for special requests like content removal by visiting this link, but they can also respond to new friend requests, write a pinned post on a timeline and change the person's profile picture and cover photo. 

A Facebook representative told Denver7 all flagged content is reviewed, regardless of how long it may take, but a trusted contact could expedite things.

After Denver7 reached out to Facebook, the man's account became a memorial account. It's not clear as of this writing whether the derogatory threads will be removed.  

Learn more about the memorialization process and Facebook's options for loved ones here.

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