When thinking about your passing, you probably have a plan for where you’d like your money and possessions to go. But do you have a plan for preserving your digital assets? You may want to consider taking care of that now. Years ago, this was something we didn’t need to consider in our planning, but now, with virtually every adult using the internet, and about 75% of them using social media, it is important to preserve your legacy and take care of your online accounts.
In deciding what to do with your digital assets, there are two main things to consider. What will happen to your accounts, and what will happen to the information in them. You designate a trusted friend or family member to be in control of your online presence and account if anything should happen to you. Some websites have protocols in place in the event of your passing.
A good way to get started in the process is to take inventory of all of your online accounts and digital items that you would want your family to have access to in the event of your death. This includes, but is not limited to bank account information, pictures and videos stored online, e-mail, social media accounts, and all of your contacts. In some cases, you can just print out a list of this information, but with digital accounts and passwords constantly changing, you may need to do some more work in protecting your online accounts.
After taking stock of your online footprints, your next step is to designate a family member or friend to be in charge of your online accounts. When talking with your estate attorney, let them know who you authorized to handle them. There are many companies that deal with passwords and digital access to your accounts after death. One such program is called LastPass. With this service, it stores your passwords, keeping them safe, and allows for a contingency plan in the event of your passing.
With financial websites, such as ones that take care of credit card and mortgage payments, and any other bills paid online, it’s important to let a family member know of the day to day amounts, and log-in information. Ensuring your trust in a designated family member with this online information, will help clear up confusion of outstanding payments in the event of your passing.
With social media accounts, various websites have different protocols in place in the event of a user passing. You may decide you’d like all of your accounts to be deleted, which you can specify in your will. However, others may want to keep their accounts active to provide friends and family with a virtual space to leave comments and reminisce about happier times.
With Facebook you can choose to have your account deleted or you can appoint a legacy contact to maintain your page when you pass away. Your legacy contact will be able to write a comment that will be displayed at the top of your account, respond to friend requests, update your profile, among other things that may change as time goes on.
Google has safeguards in place to protect your account when you die, called Inactive Account Manager. To set this up, you determine the amount of time between logins to be considered ‘inactive.’ Let’s say, three months. After this period of inactivity, your designated contact will receive a prewritten email from you, containing what you would like to happen to your account, and how to make those wishes met. This person can have full access to your Google account, and download data that you specify.
Another digital asset to take into consideration are electronic devices, and their passcodes. Think about your cell phone, laptops, iPad, etc. It is important to clue someone in of the passwords, so that in the event of your death, they can still have access to pictures and videos you may want saved for family and friends to treasure. Also, by unlocking these devices, they may assist in granting access to other online accounts that you’d like preserved.
In this ever-changing world, it is important that you be proactive about all of your assets. As time goes on, and more of our lives are online, it makes sense that this is another avenue of your entity that needs to be protected, not only to prevent nefarious activity (such as hackers) but most importantly to preserve your digital legacy, so that the future generations of your family will always remember the beautiful memories preserved in time.