Have a say in your digital legacy by writing down instructions today

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It's important to decide what should happen to your Internet presence after you die. Writing down instructions and account information makes things easier for relatives down the line. — dpa
It's important to decide what should happen to your Internet presence after you die. Writing down instructions and account information makes things easier for relatives down the line. — dpa

Most people are reluctant to think about their own death and what happens to their estate, but in terms of their digital legacy, it's essential to do so if they want to spare their family problems.

Without the right data, it'll be difficult or even impossible for them to gain access to a deceased relative's Internet accounts.

Here are some tips from Germany's Federal Association of Consumer Organizations on how best to take care of your digital legacy.

Write it down: It's important to write down all login data for your Internet accounts and place the information somewhere relatives can find it. The easiest way is to write your usernames and passwords down on a piece of paper and keep them in an envelope in a safe place. It's important to remember to update them as required.

Get a password manager: This is a programme that saves all your access data in one place and in encrypted form. Then all you have to remember is one password, the master password. You'll have to let relatives know what this is so that they can have access if needed.

Choose a confidante: Users need to name a trusted person who'll take care of any rights and obligations arising from contracts with online service providers if they die. The decision to give someone power of attorney needs to written down, dated and signed in a document.

Leave instructions: Users need to set down in writing what exactly they want done with their digital estate post-mortem. The consumer association advises giving a confidante detailed instructions for each service – for example, should the Facebook profile be deleted or left as a memorial? Instructions should also include directions on what to do with data on your computer, smartphone, tablet and so on.

Avoid service providers: There are companies that will, for a fee, handle a person's digital legacy. However, the German association advises against using such services as it's very difficult to judge their security and trustworthiness. Certainly in no circumstances should such a company be entrusted with your password information. – dpa