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Guidelines to accessing a deceased person's account

Ideally, we all leave instructions for where we want our online accounts to go after we're gone. If not, here are some guidelines for a deceased person's accounts:

*Facebook: To report someone as deceased, Facebook requires documentation, such as a copy of the deceased's death certificate. Upon request, Facebook will "memorialize" the user's page, allowing friends and family to post memorial messages on the deceased's wall.

The company says it allows only confirmed friends to view the page and prevents unauthorized users from logging on. Facebook also will honor requests from family or an executor to permanently close an account.

*Gmail: Google's email program "extend(s) our condolences" but makes no guarantees that it will grant access to the deceased's email account. You must provide your name, address, email and a copy of your driver's license or government-issued ID.

You'll need a copy of the deceased's email address, including the "headers" that show email tracking details. A copy of the death certificate is also required.

All of the above is mailed or faxed to the Google custodian of records at the company's Mountain View, Calif., office. After a review, you may -- or may not -- get clearance to proceed to the next step, which requires additional documentation. If your request is ultimately denied, Google warns that due to privacy concerns, "we will not be able to share further details or discuss our decision."

*LinkedIn: To close a deceased's account, LinkedIn requires a "verification of death" form that includes the deceased's email address, LinkedIn profile URL and a death notice.

*Twitter: If a Twitter user dies, the company says it can close the account and help family members recover the person's public tweets. It requires your name, contact information and relationship to the deceased, as well as a link to a public obituary.

*YouTube: To access the deceased's YouTube account, you'll need to provide your contact information, a copy of the death certificate, as well as a power of attorney document. If it's a child's YouTube account, you'll need a copy of his or her birth certificate, but not a power of attorney document.

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