“Every once in awhile, I’ll get a notification that it’s his birthday, it’s part of the settings that were used to establish the account,” said Sears, a tax manager at Buffalo accounting firm Lumsden & McCormick.
Sears knows firsthand that once a Facebook user passes on, his or her page lives on because it’s part of the company policy. Unless someone other than the deceased has login information, the company will keep a page up and running.
“Facebook puts a freeze on it; they call it memorializing,” Sears said. “Without a username and login, it’s difficult to manage after the fact.”
By after the fact, Sears means, “when it’s too late.”
Before paperless statements, she said, someone would go through the mail of a deceased person to learn of accounts that needed to be addressed. But that’s not enough in the 21st Century.
She added that to make sure that a person’s social assets — which include social media accounts, online banking, Web mail and other cloud-based applications that house music and other information — should be shared with a family member or attorney. This way, bills can continue to be paid and family photos can be accessed.
1. Create a list of usernames and passwords
Sears suggests that a first step in taking care of digital assets is to create a log of all accounts, usernames and passwords.
“It’s important to share passwords, create some sort of list with adult children or your attorney, when you set up your will,” Sears said.
Patricia Farrell, managing director at Wilmington Trust in Buffalo agrees, and said that it’s important to not include usernames and passwords in a will, in case a will ends up becoming public record. Instead, store the list in a safe place and back it up on a flash drive.