What Happens To My Digital Assets When I Die?

Daren Brown
By Daren Brown | March 21, 2019

A question like this was rarely asked a decade ago, but now, it’s common place for people to have a physical presence and an active online presence to go with it. The rise in digital alter egos begs the question, how do you prepare for the digital hereafter? Legal experts and internet moguls have some advice when it comes to getting your online house in order.  Unlike the days of old, it is important to determine what will happen to your digital assets and what those assets are in the event of your death.

Are Digital Assets Valuable?

Clients don’t often realize the value they attach to email accounts, social media content, digital photo albums; even online gaming achievements. Guess what, you’re not the only one who treasures that content.

Your online presence has a pulse too. The contributions you make mean something to others. It’s hard to think about, but when you’re gone, the digital fingerprints you leave behind matter. Whether those prints have sentimental, commercial, or confidential value; your electronic possessions need to be part of your estate planning.   

The simplest place to start is with the accounts themselves. In April 2013, Google added to their Gmail account features for this very purpose. Users can access their account manager tool and select up to 10 beneficiaries of their digital content in the event of their death. You set the time table-anywhere from 3 to 12 months posthumously-and Google notifies the recipients accordingly. This is a good way to achieve your legacy in email photos, blogs, and YouTube videos; but what about social media? That’s where memorializing comes in.

Friends and family can memorialize your account. Once Facebook has been notified of your passing, people are able to leave messages and memories on your account, but the ability to login is voided. Similar features are available on other social media sites.  

Online sites have fail safes in place to make sure that you have crossed over before they execute the distribution order.

Google will check for evidence of your presence online through usage of your various accounts. They also send you a reminder email or text one month before your accounts are shut down. If these attempts at contact remain unresponsive, your accounts will be shut down and the notifications sent. Recipients can follow the instructions in the email to access their digital inheritance.

You can also set up an online safety deposit box. This will hold your passwords and archive a certain amount of digital information that can be bequeathed in the event of you death. Some boxes are available free of charge; others you have to pay for.

Music and media libraries are still a grey area.  For this reason, keep backups of files and libraries that you want others to have. Keep a hardcopy list of passwords and logins, but don't put it in your will.

A legal executor of the estate is essential to insuring your digital legacyStockard, Johnston, Brown & Netardus, P.C. in Amarillo, Texas will review the fate of your digital assets and delete or disseminate them as instructed.

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photo credit: Sean Loyless via photopin cc

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