Thursday, February 12, 2015

What happens to your accounts after you die? Designate a "digital heir" for your accounts

What happens to your accounts after you pass away? When I pass away, I will hopefully have sufficient local backups of meaningful content, such as any notes, journal entries, works that I have created, or our treasured family photo library. But, there would still be a good portion of family history and valuable content in my email, and social networking accounts. And, what if something happened to the local backups? It is important to make preparations for family members to gain access to any content that may still be available in your online accounts after you pass away. Here are some options with a few sites where you can designate someone to have access to your data after you pass away:
  • Google Inactive Account Manager: Share data with trusted friends or family members after a certain inactivity period, or delete your data altogether.

    Google states, "...You can choose to have your data deleted—after three, six, nine or 12 months of inactivity. Or you can select trusted contacts to receive data from some or all of the following services: +1s; Blogger; Contacts and Circles; Drive; Gmail; Google+ Profiles, Pages and Streams; Picasa Web Albums; Google Voice and YouTube. Before our systems take any action, we’ll first warn you by sending a text message to your cellphone and email to the secondary address you’ve provided."
  • Facebook Legacy Contact: Facebook allows users to designate a contact that has permission to download a copy of everything you shared on Facebook, write a pinned post, respond to new friend requests, update profile picture and cover photo after your account is memorialized. A friend or family member can submit a request to Facebook to have your account memorialized after you pass away.
  • Microsoft Next-of-kin Process: Once a request is received, Microsoft can provide a copy of all of the email, attachments, address book, and contacts list on a DVD.
  • Yahoo: As of the publication date of this article, Yahoo does not provide the option to recover the contents of your Yahoo accounts if you pass away. A family member can, however request that the Yahoo account be closed and all subscriptions and billing associated with your account terminated after you die.
  • Twitter: Twitter has a process that will allow a family member to request that your account be deactivated after you pass away.
There is still much progress to be made in this area, and I'm sure that "digital estate planning" will continue to evolve over the next few years as more companies provide users with options for controlling the access to your digital accounts after you pass away. In the meantime, don't forget to make local backups.

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