How do you make sure that your virtual content is cared for by the people you leave behind? Most people know that they need a will to pass on their specific physical possessions, but few think about what becomes of their Internet identity. Email accounts such as Gmail, Facebook and other social media sites, and cloud-based file sharing sites all may hold your file and media content. Having a plan for your digital assets is an important part of emergency and estate planning.
A few weeks ago, I had a family member admit to me that their email password was “password.” After taking a deep breath to avoid passing out, I urged her to promptly change it to a very long and complicated password. Her admission got me thinking about the importance of sharing passwords with a trusted friend or family member as part of practical estate planning. A great article on the topic in the New York Times also provides a list of great resources for those who want to do some Internet planning on their own. Here is a brief summary:
- Google has a program introduced this year called Inactive Account Manager, which allows users to decide how they want to deal with the data they have stored online with the company.
- Google also has a feature that will notify designated beneficiaries if you have been inactive with the account for a defined period of time.
- Services like SecureSafe allow you to store all your passwords online to be accessed by a designated beneficiary.
- At Facebook, an Executor or Personal Representative can request the contents of your account, such as photographs and posts.
In addition to these services, the article recommends some simple steps, one of which I think is particularly helpful. Keep a private list of your passwords (either on your computer or with your estate planning documents in hard copy) to allow your executor or personal representative to find them with ease. Good luck with getting your Internet house in order! And, contact us to learn more about how we create unique estate planning documents to protect our client’s virtual and tangible assets.