Some of us have dealt with the death of loved ones. When a person dies, their physical belongings can be sorted through and distributed fairly easily. If they have created a will these effects are then distributed to their beneficiaries – however our online presence can exist indefinitely – as the treatment of your digital effects depends on the terms of service of the social media platform on which they are published.
Google allows you to use a setting called Inactive Account Manager which allows you to decide what happens to your data and at what time your account is to be treated as inactive – no one ever really dies they just stop using their Google account.
Facebook gives you options for what you want to happen to your account when you die — you can select a legacy contact (a sort of digital executor) for your Facebook profile, to accept new friend requests, update your profile and cover photo, and write memorial messages.
We have posted before about the need to protect your online or digital assets; not just your social media accounts, but your email address(es), cloud, and online financial details; and any hardware (laptop, desktop, hard drives) protected by passwords.
Just as it is prudent (and I would suggest necessary) to have a valid and up to date Will – you should have a digital inventory setting out all of your relevant usernames, passwords and secret questions, to enable simple access to your personal and financial information.
In the event that you are incapacitated (this is why a power of attorney is important) your appointed Attorney can control and deal with your digital assets.
Your digital inventory should be stored securely – but needs to be accessible to your Attorney or Executor should they need it – and remember your executor will need it!
Importantly make sure that you update this information when you change your passwords.
At present the laws of succession do not allow specifically for the control of digital assets. Online information is often governed by the terms of service of places like Facebook and is not physical property that can be transferred to a third party. However like wearing a seatbelt or having your car serviced it is always preferable to take steps to minimise the risks by making plans for your digital assets to be properly managed after you are unable to do so.
Like life and income protection insurances, superannuation and importantly an up to date Will – you should include a clause in your Will giving the power to your executor to access your digital assets– and then write down your passwords and store them separately in a safe place.