Estate planning is something that everyone should do. However, the subject matter is not something people necessarily want to think about. This reluctance means that certain subjects slip people’s minds. One of the common exclusions is what happens to someone’s digital life after they die. Read on to learn about digital life after death and how to account for it within your estate planning documents.
What Is A Digital Life?
Put simply, a digital life is simply an individual’s online presence. For most people, that presence is largely across various social media platforms. However, their digital life also includes files and documents on their computer. As well as any notes, voice recordings or other items on their phone.
For certain people, their digital life is more prolific than that. People such as bloggers, writers, and journalists carry most of their career with them digitally. Even people who do not heavily work with computers likely have a work email. All of these accounts require usernames and passwords. Not all of the accounts need to be shut down or deleted, but certain accounts have the potential to compromise security.
Most social media or social networking sites do not need preservation. However, most people’s social media sites do not connect to anything else that compromises security. Many social media platforms allow family members or legal representatives to memorialize or remove accounts.
- Removing the account will delete all of the content and the person’s presence from the platform.
- Memorializing an account simply means that the account is frozen in time so the memories and photos from that account are still available.
Most social media platforms post the rules for a deceased person’s account – here’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Passwords & Logins
It is very important to place any usernames or passwords in a place where they are accessible. Additionally, your estate planning documents need to specify who has access to those logins. It is best to store the information where the person you want to act as guardian for your digital life has access to it. Services such as Dropbox or Google Drive allows you to create documents and share them with other people. Another option is to leave the list with your estate planning attorney.
Photos & Other Items Stored Digitally
It is smart to create some plans to transfer digital photographs and other memories to the appropriate parties. For some people, that plan might look like transferring everything from their computer and phone to external hard drives.
After the beneficiaries contend with the remnants of someone’s digital life, they are often left with the tools that held that life. Whether it is a laptop, PC, or a cellphone, the guardians of the estate must properly dispose of the devices. Make sure that the estate planning attorney also has plans to help wipe and dispose of the devices. This ensures that no personal security information gets out.