Planning for control of your personal information after you die used to be as simple as telling someone about the desk drawer or the fireproof box or the safe deposit box at the local bank. But in the era of smartphones and cloud computing services, that same stuff may be stored in digital formats on servers scattered across the globe.
What happens to your digital life after you have passed? Does it just automatically go away? Most people today have numerous online accounts. They have email accounts for work and personal use, accounts on sites like Facebook and Twitter, and some people also have blogs or even their own websites. If you check the privacy policies on the sites where you have accounts, you will notice that most sites will not give out any information about your accounts without your prior permission and some will not give out information without a court order. Your digital life may or may not go on without you, so you must plan ahead of time.
As a recent New York Times article, “How to Digitally Avoid Taking It to the Grave,” points out, if you do not plan ahead regarding how someone else can access your accounts after you pass away, then you risk the loss of those accounts. In other cases, accounts you would want to carry on might disappear. It depends on the policies of the sites where you have accounts. Some states have passed laws granting executors access to digital accounts after the owners pass away, and there is an effort underway to pass a uniform law in every state.
However, until the law catches up with today’s current digital environment, you need to have a plan. At a minimum, you should make sure that a list exists of your digital accounts. You should make sure someone will be able to find the passwords for those accounts. You also need to store that information somewhere it can be found by someone you trust. This could be done by including that information in your will, but that could make updating the digital information cumbersome. You could also give that information to a trusted individual before you pass away. You do not need to tell them now what your passwords are. You just need to tell them where to find the information.
Reference: New York Times (July 2, 2014) “How to Digitally Avoid Taking It to the Grave”