From social media to online banking, most of us have at least a few – and sometimes many, many more – online accounts. But what happens to them when you die?
Unless you take the time to make a few preparations now, the answer to that question is simply, nothing. Your Facebook account will still be active, your old boss will still endorse you for your skills on LinkedIn, and the SPAM emails will never stop. While no one likes to think about death, in this digital age the arrangements you make for carrying out your wishes don’t stop at your financial assets and physical belongings. Your online life is likely a big part of your identity, and contains a lot of information that you may want to pass along – or go away – when you’re gone.
Many attorneys suggest including digital assets in your estate plans, so when you are creating your will, you should make sure to discuss it with your lawyer. Access rights vary from state to state, so arrangements need to be made ahead of time to ensure your wishes are followed.
To help with that, there are various ways to store access credentials for your accounts in an encrypted application. Your designated executor will need to know the vault exists and how to access it.
There are services that can assist in handling all of your accounts so they don’t have to be deactivated individually after the fact. Password Box offers a legacy feature that lets you designate another user as a digital heir, making your accounts accessible to that person once Password Box has received a copy of your death certificate. Perpetu is an application that was founded by an intellectual property lawyer and banker that allows you to select what information will be downloaded and distributed, ensuring your loved ones will only receive the information you want them to see. Perpetu also gives you the option to craft messages that will be posted to your social media accounts and emails that will be sent to your loved ones upon your death, so you can carefully craft your final words.
Both Twitter and Facebook will remove your account if requested by an authorized person. However, Twitter also requires a copy of your death certificate. Facebook also offers an option to turn a profile into a memorial, where people will be able to view and post photos and leave tributes.
Google offers an “inactive account manager” which lets you decide what should be done with your Gmail messages and data from other Google services if your account becomes inactive. You can choose to have your data deleted, or select trusted contacts to receive it.
These things may seem overwhelming, but your ongoing online security is worth caring about. Take the time now to handle your online arrangements for peace of mind down the road.