“Step 4: Write out instructions for what should happen to your digital assets after you die. Your will most likely lays out the distribution of all your bank and brokerage accounts, so you probably don’t need a separate written plan for the ones you access online, says Michael Sears, vice president and trust officer of Great Plains Trust Company in Overland Park, Kansas.
Just make sure the executor of your will knows how to obtain your list of online financial accounts, since this can make divvying up your estate faster and easier, he adds.
Your non-financial digital assets, however, are a different story.
Sears says it’s a good idea to create a to-do list outlining how you want all things digital — from your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles to your Flickr and YouTube accounts — to be handled when you die. Then give this document to your digital executor.
The to-do list should answer questions like these:
- Do you want your Facebook account deactivated when you die, or do you want it to remain online as a memorial of your life?
- Do you want prints of your online photos sent to your family members?
Before you create this list, you should review the terms of services on your digital social media accounts, says John O’Grady, a trusts and estates lawyer at the O’Grady Law Firm in San Francisco. The terms of service for social media sites can take precedent over state laws.
Typically, you will need to give your digital executor or someone else the user name and password for your social media accounts, so they can log in after you die. Otherwise, your wishes may not be honored.
In general, Facebook won’t grant access to an account to anyone other than the account holder (or your digital executor, if you’ve given him or her permission to enter your user name and password).
Instead, the company can do one of two things when a Facebook user dies. It can ‘memorialize’ the user’s profile so friends and family can still see it and post on the wall, but can’t log into the account or find the deceased in a search. Or it can deactivate the profile at the request of the user’s family.
Twitter lists only the option of deactivating the account on its Help Center site. And it doesn’t make this process easy: You need to fax Twitter copies of the death certificate and your government-issued ID (such as a driver’s license), along with a signed, notarized statement and either a link to an online obituary or a copy of the obituary from a local paper.
To access your YouTube account after you die, the person you appoint will need to send YouTube a copy of your death certificate and a copy of a document saying he or she has power of attorney over the account.
As for Gmail, Google says that it will only grant a family member access to a deceased person’s email ‘in rare cases.’ The family member requesting this access must send Google a copy of his or her government-issued ID and the death certificate. But even then, the company doesn’t promise that it will let anyone into a loved one’s email account.”
Next: Step 5: Do you want to post a last message online?
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