When a loved one passes, family and friends are often left with an unexpected inheritance. The digital inheritance has become just as significant as the tangible items left behind. How this data is handled can have a lasting impact.
What Is Digital Inheritance? Accounts Enumerable!
We each have a wide variety of accounts, from banks to social media. While some accounts are simple to take care of, others will need a bit more consideration.
Email and phone accounts should be among the last accounts shut down, as you might need access to those in order to take care of other accounts. Social media and game accounts might provide a connection to friends and family who might not otherwise be aware of your passing. Using those platforms to send a message to let others know what has happened will be appreciated.
Cloud storage such as Google Drive, DropBox, and Microsoft OneDrive might hold a treasure trove of family memories. It might be appropriate to duplicate photos and videos to a location where they can be preserved. Sharing them from one account to another on the same platform might appear to work at first, but when the account belonging to the deceased is closed, those files might be removed immediately, or after a grace period. The best solution is to download the files that need to be retained and upload them to the file sharing service used by the survivors.
Preplanning & Data Pallbearing
In your will, you should not only identify who should have access to your data, but who is going to help everyone receive their digital inheritance. Pick a techy friend or two as your proverbial digital pallbearers. Make sure they are ok with what you are asking of them. Be clear on what you want them to do with your accounts and assets. They will also need to know how to access everything in your absence; that does not mean giving them a password to everything. Using a password manager will make things easier for you while alive, but also for those caring for your data afterwards. Set up a free email account as a backup password recovery account for your password database. The password to that account should be given to your lawyer as part of your will. Your cell phone might also be essential for dealing with your digital remains.
Time Is Of The Essence.
Preserving a digital inheritance or closing accounts gets harder the more time passes. Most often people don’t log out of their accounts. It might be easy to access the accounts now, but most websites will automatically log out users after a set number of days or weeks. Make sure the executor of the will has access to the cell phone number and email accounts before it becomes more difficult.
A variety of digital accounts are frequently the target of hackers. Accounts that do not have anyone using on a regular basis are more likely to to have extensive damage. With social media that could lead to very awkward and frustrating situations in the future. Regaining access to a hacked account is much harder than just securing the accounts of a loved one.
To combat online accounts getting abused after someone has passed, many organizations have a policy to automatically shut down accounts when they are notified that the owner is deceased. In some cases this is done automatically, and other times it requires the submission of proof. While some accounts will be shut down entirely, others are memorialized so that you can still enjoy the memories.
Your collection of polka music is one example; while we are alive there are certain files we collect that no one else needs to have or know about. In your last will and testament, make sure that there are directions about what needs to be recycled post haste after you’re gone.
When everything is finished with an account, someone will have to decide if the account should be closed, memorialized, or forgotten. Not every account will give you all of those options, and how they are performed can vary widely. Closing accounts or requesting them to be forgotten often has to be done from within the account. Memorializing an account usually can be done without logging into an account at all. The end of this article includes a list of links to some of the most popular accounts.
Email and social media will often allow you to set up an autoresponder, which might be tempting to use on the accounts of the deceased; however, that will likely create more problems than it solves. An autoresponder’s message about someone’s passing might alert other organizations and result in a loss of access to accounts before your family is ready. Responses to spam bots and botnets will only confirm that the account is real and prompt them to send more spam to the account or perform other actions.
Most online accounts are required by law to offer a way to download all of the account data. This can be a handy way to simply and quickly download everything. The downside is that it can be a large amount of data with very little worth keeping.
Sharing The Digital Wealth
Online photo albums such as Flickr are a great way to share the photos with family and friends. A Facebook page or group is also a great way to share photos and memories of loved ones. The advantage of a Facebook Group is that you can allow easy access while still keeping things private.
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