Planning your Digital Afterlife
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You likely have a will drawn up to distribute your property and assets in the event of your death, but do you have a plan for your digital assets and how they will be managed?
In your daily life over the past decade or two, you likely have used multiple online accounts that may live on forever unless you plan ahead. Services like Google, Facebook, and Twitter have protocols for cases of death, but do you have plans for your email accounts, Netflix subscription, and other monthly services you subscribe to? Are your hard drive backups encrypted? These all need to be in your plans.
Here are some of the most popular social media and internet entities and their end-of-life policies, make sure you are familiar with any you may use!
Facebook turns your account into a Memorialized Account after you pass away, and you can set up a Legacy Contact through the Security settings on your Facebook account. The Legacy Contact can also share a final message on your behalf or provide information about a memorial service, and you can also grant this person permission to download your Facebook posts and photos. The Legacy Contact cannot delete your account or log in to your account.
Google has an Inactive Account feature, you can specify in advance a ‘timeout period,’ which starts after you have not logged in for a certain time period. At that point, Google will attempt to contact you by text and email, then they notify trusted contacts you have set up with a letter you have written in advance regarding the Google account. Unlike Facebook, these trusted contacts have full access to delete the account.
Twitter has a form that can be used to request a deactivation of a deceased one’s Twitter account, but no access to the account is granted.
Yahoo will not provide passwords or allow access to the deceased’s account, including account content such as email, but they will delete all account content after receiving documents including a letter and death certificate.
LinkedIn will allow anyone connected to a person to confirm their death with a link to the obituary and some other information that can be filled out on an online form.
Netflix You just need to sign into the account with the username and password of the account holder, and then select cancel streaming services under the Your Account menu.
Apple has a rather strict ‘No Right of Survivorship’ clause in their iCloud terms and conditions. It states that “You agree that your Account is non-transferable and that any rights to your Apple ID or Content within your Account terminate upon your death. Upon receipt of a copy of a death certificate, your Account may be terminated, and all Content within your Account deleted.” So, if you want your music and movies to be available after you are gone, make sure someone has your Apple ID and password so they can access these media files.
Other Passwords and Sites You also have online identities for your banks, services like Skype, and all your email accounts that need to be dealt with. You may have an iTunes and Dropbox account. You can choose a password manager like 1Password, sign up for a cloud storage account, or look up one of the services that offer to keep your credentials under digital lock and key for this very purpose. (I personally keep a printed list of logins to my most important accounts in a safe deposit box that my wife knows about, and I update it annually.)
As you can see, it won’t be easy for relatives to request entries to your accounts or to ask for their deletion. Doing what you can, while you can still decide for yourself, makes it easier for anyone you leave behind.