People store a lot of personal information in their computers. This information consists of personal emails, chat conversations, diary entries, passwords, pictures and videos, etc. Everyone trusts that all this personal information will remain private but what about after they pass on?
Do you really want your family members, friends, or even strangers browsing through your personal information after you’re gone? Most people are uncomfortable with this concept, which is why they need to consider what happens to their data after they pass away.
So, What Happens to Your Digital Life after Death?
An average Internet user will typically have at least 25 accounts on different platforms and this includes email accounts, social media, bank accounts, forum subscriptions, etc. All the interactions and information in these online accounts can only be accessed by the account owner when they’re alive. However, the information usually belongs to the company that holds the accounts.
For example, the content on your Facebook profile is owned by Facebook. Different platforms have different rules when it comes to your accounts so it’s important to explore your options. After you depart, the access to this information is controlled by the company’s policies. The situation is further complicated by the laws of different states. Here’s a brief look at the policies of the websites:
Twitter – This platform will deactivate your account after your demise if a verified family member or estate executor requests it. They will have to provide a death certificate and other related information.
Facebook – This platform provides two different options. You can either turn the user account into a memorial, and allow people to post comments on it or remove the account entirely. These actions will be taken on the request of a verified family member or an estate executor.
Google – Google has a strict policy but it also allows users more control. Family members and estate executors are only allowed access under special circumstances. Users can create a set of instructions through the inactive account manager and decide who can handle their account.
State laws further complicate the matter, though efforts are being made to create a straightforward law regarding digitalassets. Most state governments require companies to grant access upon the request of an appointed executor or personal representative. Of course, the account users can leave behind specific instructions regarding their digital data in their will. This will make things easier for people left behind.
What can You Do?
It’s important to be prepared for death. Everyone should plan how their digital assets should be handled after they pass away. Here are some ways in which you can lessen the burden on your loved ones:
- Plan a Will – Hire a professional to plan a will and include your digital assets in them. Make sure you appoint someone as your representative so they can request information from the Internet companies if needed.
- Create a List of Accounts – Keep track of all the important accounts you have and create a list for your loved ones so they can have easily find the content. Ensure they can only have access to the list after your demise. Don’t provide passwords, just instructions on how to access the accounts.
What Can Families Do?
If someone close to you has passed away, you should get legal assistance immediately. Professionals will know how to approach Internet companies and request information. You also need documentation that proves the user has died and you are a close family member or a verified executor of their will. Companies will only give you access if you have permission or rights to access the deceased user’s digital legacy.