Did you ever wonder what happens to old emails, videos, or photos when people die? Some family stories become headlines when families battle with big tech firms to get their loved one’s photos or business records. You need to plan for and organize digital assets, explained a recent article from USA Today.
Your digital life includes far more than your photos or business records. It includes financial accounts, like PayPal or Venmo, websites, videogames, online investment portfolios, social media, online video games and anything for which you need a password.
Social media accounts that are not closed down or deleted when someone dies are at risk of being taken over by cybercriminals who use the accounts to get access to financial accounts and use the decedent’s identity to commit crimes across the internet.
How to: Organize Digital Assets
- Make a list of all your accounts. This includes account numbers, usernames and passwords. If the account has two-factor authentication, you’ll need to include that information as well. If the account uses biometrics, like a facial scan, you’ll need to find out from the platform itself how you can create a directive to allow another person to gain access to the account.
- Keep them someplace safe but accessible. Some use a spreadsheet on your computer while others keep it in a physical password book.
- Use the platform’s own account tools for digital assets. Google, Facebook, PayPal, and a number of other sites offer the ability to name a legacy contact who will be able to gain some access to an account, to access the information and to delete the account in the event of your death.
One big issue in digital estate planning is that some platforms automatically delete accounts and their contents if the account is inactive for a certain amount of time. Content may be lost forever if the proper steps are not taken.
Some financial advisors maintain online portals where their clients may store important documents that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. This may be an option, in addition to keeping a list of digital assets in the same location where you keep your estate planning documents.
We all live in a digital world now, and when a person dies, it’s challenging to locate all of their accounts and gain access to their contents. Your grandchildren may be able to figure out some workarounds, but it would be much easier if digital assets were part of the conversation you had with your children when discussing your estate plan.
Reference: USA Today (Nov. 25, 2020) “Don’t leave grieving relatives searching for your passwords: Here’s how to organize your digital life before you die”