When we think about the things we leave behind when we die, we commonly imagine our material goods and money. But as time goes on in our electronic culture, we also leave behind trails of our digital life. One usually has a plan for where their money and assets will go, but what happens to our digital footprint? Does it disappear? Or does it stick around when we are gone? Included in this blog are different applications and websites and how they preserve your digital legacy, as well as safeguards you can take to keep your information protected, when you are no longer able to do so yourself.
When thinking about your digital life when you pass away, there are two major points to consider. What will happen to your online accounts and what will happen to the information within them? When contemplating this, it is a good idea to try to take inventory of all of your online accounts, the usernames you use to log in, as well as the passwords. When getting the information organized, you may be surprised at how many online accounts you hold, from banking, credit cards, social media, and e-mail.
After compiling the list of your online accounts, you should consider designated a family member or friend to be in charge of them when you pass away. Make sure you update your will, as well as notifying your estate attorney of the designated individual. In leaving behind your list of online accounts, it’s wise to also include the passwords to be kept on file. This may be difficult, as many companies require us to change them frequently. Luckily there are many companies that deal with passwords and digital access to your accounts after death. One such program is called LastPass. LastPass stores your passwords, keeping them safe, and allows for a contingency plan in the event of your passing.
When it comes to financial websites, such as bank, loan, and credit cards, be sure to take notice of the day to day or monthly transactions or sign-ins that need to be completed, so that you can let your family member know. This will help resolve any confusion that may linger as to what payments need to be made and when, in the event of your passing.
With social media accounts, different companies have specific protocols in place for when the user passes away. You may choose to have your accounts deleted when you die, or you can also have them remain as they are, so that friends and family can visit your pages and reminiscence about happier times. It also leaves a virtual space for people to ‘visit’ you and leave messages to you, possibly helping them along in their grief process.
With Facebook you can elect 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. If you choose to keep the page active, your legacy contact can also change the page to reflect that it is ‘in memory’ of you.
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.’ For instance, three months of no activity. 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.
In addition to these virtual accounts, items such as laptops, mobile phones and tablets will also require protocols in place for your passing. Consider leaving the log-in information with your contact so that they may be able to access important pictures and videos that will be left behind as part of your legacy.
In this high-tech world that we live in, it just makes sense that adding safeguards to your online life in the event of your passing has become a commonplace factor for end of life planning. Taking these tips into account and talking with your estate attorney to resolve questions you may have about the legacy of your digital life will allow you peace of mind.