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By Skyline On Saturday, October 30 th, 2021 · In ,

PLANNING YOUR DIGITAL DEATH

by RACHEL OH, ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY

Have you addressed digital legacy in your estate plan?

With each day, our digital legacy expands. Whether uploading a selfie to the cloud, sending an email or posting on social media, we are constantly engaging with our growing digital footprint. But what exactly is a digital legacy and what happens to our data when we die? 

 

A digital legacy is inclusive of all your online accounts, domain names, digital files, blogs, social media and networking identities. Think of your digital legacy as all the digital information left behind after you die, including:

  • Cloud storage accounts
  • Email accounts
  • Bank and investment portals
  • Utility company portals
  • Blogs and domains
  • Social media accounts
  • Online subscriptions, such as streaming services and digital reading platforms
  • Seller/buyer accounts such as PayPal, Amazon and Venmo.

 

As your digital legacy often reflects your most personal records and communications with family and friends, it is more important than ever to have a plan for what should happen to these accounts after you die. And, while you might think of your digital assets as your own property, you are not the true owner of  many of the digital accounts you use in your daily life. Rather, you hold licenses or accept terms and conditions established by a business to access your online account or profile. This means that upon your death, these accounts, and the personal data associated with them, won’t necessarily pass under the terms of your Will or Trust. In fact, in most cases, they won’t.

 

The fate of your digital legacy varies for each of your accounts and their terms of usage.  For example, some social media accounts have the option to change into memorial accounts, but only if you activate such settings during your lifetime.  Your family may be locked out of your work email and lose important content, including pictures and text sent from a work account. Accessing financial information may become difficult if your family does not have access to your account username and password, slowing down the administration of your estate.

How do you include digital legacy planning with your estate?

Start by making a list of all the digital accounts you use in your daily life. It is important to keep this list in a secure place; an active family account with a password manager such as LastPass or 1Password can be a valuable tool for organizing and securing your online life in addition to facilitating family members’ access to information after you pass on.

 

After your list is complete, research the various memorial policies each of your digital accounts has and follow the steps necessary to formally designate someone who could access this information or account in the event of your death. The following commonly used sites are an excellent place to start: Facebook, Instagram, Google, Apple ID & iCloud

 

Your digital footprint should be protected as the sensitive, intimate and personal entity that it is. It includes personal correspondences, cherished pictures and videos, important records and confidential data about yourself. In addition, it holds many of the resources that your family might need to settle your estate.  If you haven’t already, talk to your estate planning attorney about formal ways you can protect and preserve your digital legacy for your friends and loved ones to remember you safely.

Rachel Oh is a Portland-based estate planning attorney. You can learn more about her and find her contact information here: Rachel Oh, JD.