What Happens to Online Assets When You’re Gone

  • July 21, 2017

We no longer live in the “Industrial Revolution” that was started almost 100 years ago with the creation of the product factories and a host of other businesses. That revolution has been declining ever since the mass adoption of the Internet took place. Now we are firmly in the “Digital Revolution” where the focus is all about the Internet and the power it plays in our lives.

Whether you agree with it or not or whether you are an active or passive user or not doesn’t matter any longer…we all have a “digital footprint” in the internet. This means we are all leaving trails behind us on the internet and we all have digital accounts floating around out there. So what happens when someone passes away today is completely different than when someone left us during the Industrial Revolution.

In the past, we pulled their records together and we could make some transfers and then destroy the records and we were done. Not so easy today and there is far more to think about than ever before. Digital identity theft is rampant and one of the areas these thieves go after is your digital profile and identity. So how do you take care of this and eliminate it in today’s world?

Most companies that control your digital information have ways for you to handle your account…in advance of something happening to you. I highly recommend you take advantage of these options and put the appropriate pieces in place so there isn’t a massive issue or hassle at the time of your death. For example, Google has a page, Plan your digital afterlife with Inactive Account Manager, which allows you to tell them what you want to do with the digital assets (e-mail, photos, documents, etc.) that you have stored with Google.

If you have things scattered all over different accounts, this might also be a good time to consolidate this type of information into one area, such as Google, to make it easier for your loved ones to access and handle. But if you’re not quite ready to do that, many of the other social platforms also allow you to put some settings in place as well as to how you want to handle your account based on inactivity.

For example, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Microsoft (to name a few of the big ones) won’t allow you access without a court order. Some, like Facebook and Yahoo, will allow the family to access or delete the accounts of someone who is deceased. So it’s worth the time to investigate these accounts today and figure out a plan of how to handle these in the future.

Consult with your attorney about these issues. There are ways you can also adjust your living trust to incorporate some of this into your directives. It’s hard to give advice on this because each person is unique in how they are set up which is why it is important to discuss with your attorney. If they don’t understand the digital landscape, give me a call and I would be happy to meet with you or give you some initial guidance. It’s an important issue…don’t wait…your digital footprint just keeps getting deeper and wider every day!