Planning for your digital afterlife

Not too long ago, I attended the funeral of a good friend who was taken way too early from our lives.   Her family was having difficulty figuring out how to access a Shutterfly account that she had been using to store photos of her children.  It took them a few weeks, but they were finally able to reset the password through an old email account and able to access the photos.  A little advance planning can make things a bit easier for your loved ones when the time comes.

When putting together an estate plan, it’s common to spell out where you’d like your grandmother’s ring, or dad’s classic mustang to end up.   You should also consider including access to your social media profiles, online storage, as well as passwords to access your email accounts.  Sharing the code to unlock your iPhone can be huge to family members looking to access your photos.  Access to your email can allow family members to reset your passwords.  They will then be able to log in to social media sites, or receive and pay bills that are due.

It’s not advised to leave passwords directly in a will since it is often made public in probate court.  A better approach would be to leave them in a safe or on file with a trusted contact.  Some social media sites have begun allowing users to name contacts that can access their account after the user’s death.

Facebook allows users to name a “legacy contact” that will be able to manage their account after death.  The legacy contact can write a post to display at the top of the Facebook page, update the profile picture, and even accept new friends.  They can download photos and old posts; however, they can’t access private messages or delete old posts.

Google has also set up something called “inactive account manager” for its Gmail service.  If you name someone as this “inactive account manager” they will receive an email from Google once your account has gone inactive for a certain period of time.  You can set up what you’d like the time period to be, what the email should say, and also include access to different parts of your Gmail account.

Do a little bit of planning in advance to make sure all of your precious photos and videos are preserved for generations to come.

All comments and suggestions are welcome.

Marisa Bradbury, CFA®, CFP®