Nobody really likes to think about passing on. But there is a certain amount of business that needs to be taken care of to ensure your treasured possessions end up in the right hands. You may have written a will or an elaborate estate plan, but have you thought about what happens to your digital profiles and their content?
We send hundreds of messages on our social accounts, connecting with friends and family and posting photos of places we’ve gone, outfits we’ve worn and fun we’ve had. Our digital accounts become a scrapbook and journal of our lives.
So where will that all go when you go? And who, if anyone, will get access to it? It depends on whether you plan.
Some simple steps:
Keep or Close?
Decide what you want to have happen to your accounts and their content. Would you like the accounts to be kept alive or have them shut down? If they are shut down, do you want the content preserved? (If so, you probably should start backing up what you post now.)
Appoint a Trustee
You can create documentation with all of your accounts listed with your usernames and passwords and appoint a trustee(s) to whom you give permission to manage your accounts according to your wishes. Keep in mind, the terms and conditions of some social media accounts consider it a violation to give your username and password to someone else. Be sure to review your options for each site carefully. T&Cs are usually found in the help section.
Put together a list of all of your digital passwords and leave it in a safe place for your trustee. Just don’t put your passwords in your will – it is a public document!
These days, we probably have more of our friends and family on our Facebook page and other social sites than we do in our phone address book. You might want to think about whether you would like your trustee to notify others of your demise by posting announcements on these sites.
Facebook Memorial Page – Facebook handles a user death by turning a profile page into a memorial page. A family member or close friend reports the death to Facebook and will be required to provide proof, such as an obituary or death certificate. The page of the deceased will be set to private and alerts will no longer broadcast from the page, including appearing in “People You May Know” suggestions. The page will only be visible to those already connected with it. Connections will be allowed to post memories and condolences on the page’s Wall. Some families may choose not to report the death to Facebook and leave the page as it was, with photos and interactions available to be seen publicly as a testament to a full life.
Google’s Inactive Digital Account Manager – Set this up and your Google account will be automatically deactivated and deleted if it is inactive for a certain amount of time.
If I Die – This Facebook app allows you to record a video to post to your Facebook connections after your demise. You appoint a trustee to launch the video when the time comes. This is your chance to have one last say.
My Wonderful Life – A site that allows you to create an online book with your desired funeral plan, leave letters for loved ones and assign “angels” to help carry out your wishes. It saves the necessity of having those awkward conversations and it’s all outlined in writing, so grieving family members know exactly what needs – and what you would like – to be done.
With all of our passwords to track and remember, don’t you wish there was an online safety deposit box where you could keep them and pass them on to your trustees? Cirrus Legacyand LegacyLocker are two companies that have responded to the need to offer “digital safes.” You authorize who gets access to your passwords.
When There Isn’t a Plan
There are many reports of a family’s struggles to gain access to the social accounts of a departed relative. Terms and conditions of individual sites can be strict roadblocks, and reporting a death can sometimes lead to automatic deletion of an account. Family members may never get a chance to keep content as mementos of their loved one. It can add more stress to an already difficult time.
Don’t let this happen to you. Make a plan, put it in writing and add it to your will or estate plan so you can ensure you’re in control of your digital presence, even after you’re gone.