We live in a time where everyone has access to technology. This means that everybody has a myriad of social, email and digital accounts. But, the question is, what happens to them when you die? They don’t just shut off and go away by themselves. In fact, you will have to do the leg work to ensure that your digital footprint is appropriately managed following you passing.
In this blog, we will detail the best ways to deal with your online presence, accounts and data after you pass away.
Let’s start high level.
What happens to your digital footprint by default when you dies?
If you don't do anything, nothing happens to your digital accounts. Whether it's Facebook, Google, or your Amazon account, they will continue to work. Some platforms delete inactive accounts after a while, but that typically takes years, and in most cases, it won't happen at all.
To prevent fraud, family members usually take the necessary steps to close the accounts of the deceased. Amazon, for example, makes it easy to upload a death certificate and they'll close the account quickly.
Planning for closing down your digital accounts
It's important to keep in mind that your online stuff, such as social media accounts, for example, doesn't belong to you. In most cases, the long list of terms and conditions that you agreed to sign when you set up the account includes a close stating that the account will be closed in the event of the user's death.
No one other than you can access your account, so if you want to be the one who decides what happens to your digital life after your death, you need to plan for it.
Start by telling your family about what online accounts you have. This is especially important when it comes to utility bills and online banking, so there's little confusion about the running of your household.
Keep details of your accounts and passwords safe, such as in an envelope or a flash drive stored together with your will.
Social media checklist
Here's what you need to do in order to decide what happens to your social media presence after your passing:
- Facebook — you can choose to have your account "memorialized" after your death. Facebook will ask a family member for a copy of the death certificate to turn your wall into a memorial page where people can still leave comments. If you decide against that, the account can also be deleted after your death.
- Twitter — Twitter doesn't allow any other person than the account holder to access the account. However, the account can be deactivated on behalf of the deceased, and documentation is also required.
- Google (Gmail) — Before their passing, any Google user can access and set up the “inactive account manager” tool to help outline what should become of their accounts, data and information after a predefined period of inactivity.
You can choose from a myriad of options, including sending certain personal data to specific contacts (loved ones, business partners, etc.) or simply shutting down the accounts and deleting the data entirely. If nothing is specified by you ahead of time, your immediate family members or an authorized representative can send Google a request to deactivate an account or to access the data from it following your passing. They will ask for a death certificate copy and possible other legal document to do this.
- Dropbox — unlike other online services, Dropbox allows other users to sync photos and other documents after the death of the account holder, but they'll want to see a copy of the death certificate and written evidence that it was the wish of the deceased for family to access the files.
- Instagram — just like in the case of Facebook, immediate family can request that the deceased's account is memorialized or deleted.