August 4th, 2016 – Not too long ago a client of mine came to me with a personal information technology question” that I — believe it or not — had never been asked before:
“What happens to all my online accounts when I die?”
This was the first time I’d gotten the question, but I am certain that it will not be the last; as we continue to upload more and more pieces of our lives to our computers and to online accounts, we have no choice but to consider our digital legacies, and how we plan to get them under control before it’s too late.
We all know what our physical assets are: our home; our vehicles; that antique rocking chair that was passed down to you from your grandfather’s grandfather. You’ve probably accounted for all of these things in your will, and know where they’ll end up.
Things get sticky when we start talking about social media accounts, online banking accounts, Dropbox accounts, Google Drive accounts, and other digital depositories that hold intangible but invaluable items.
These intangible assets make up your digital legacy, and are a lot more complicated to pass on as they are often shielded behind passwords that even we can’t successfully juggle.
When it comes to our work life, our companies will retain ownership of all our corporate data if we should pass away. Simple, so long as we haven’t saved any of that data to our personal accounts.
But imagine that every single one of your online accounts was suddenly locked down. What would you lose? Money? Critical medical or legal records? All trace of your successful side business? Memories? How would it impact your and loved ones to lose each of these things once you pass?
And even if you’ve converted some of these digital assets to another format (external storage or otherwise), will it be physically and technically accessible when someone else needs it?
Unless we’ve specifically planned for what happens to our data and accounts following our demise (which even I did not as I went through a rather grueling estate planning process months ago), chances are your digital legacy will be as good as gone.
Wherever possible, I suggest using the facilities inherent to your various online accounts. Facebook calls it your “legacy contact,” Google calls it your “inactive account manager,” and more and more cloud companies are adding their own version to the mix. These tools will automatically grant direct access to whomever you designate within your account.
In fact, with the latest revision to the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act ( RUFADAA), these designated contacts will have priority rights to your accounts even if it conflicts with what’s written in your will.
If a critical account does not offer this kind of hand-off, your will is the next best option. Here you can list what you want to do with your digital accounts, and you can use any number of online tools and services to make sure that the right person has access to the appropriate passwords.
Beyond that, remain mindful of where you’re storing your most treasured digital assets, and how they’ll be accessible to those who will need them after you. It’s not the most pleasant topic to keep in the back of your head, but I would bet my own legacy that your loved ones will thank you for it.
Article found here.