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What happens to your social media accounts when you die?

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When preparing a will, many of us focus on our monetary and physical assets. But what about social media accounts? Or email addresses? Or the myriad of online accounts we use to manage our lives, every day?

Many of us are unaware that many companies have unclear policies in the event of someone’s passing, so, unless you have the right information and passwords, accessing and managing an account on behalf of a loved one is extremely difficult, resulting in stressful processes and endless hand-offs from one representative to another just to reset a password or get access to an account.

So, given we now live our lives on social media it would seem preparation is essential.

There are numerous steps you can take to ensure your online accounts are not left in limbo in the event of your passing.

Activate digital heirs

It is little known that some websites have processes for designating a digital heir and allowing this trusted contact to carry out your final wishes. For example, Google offers an Inactive Account Manager feature that lets you designate up to 10 trusted contacts to be notified if your account goes inactive and given them access to your data. Facebook allows you to designate a Legacy Contact who is able to memorialise your page in the event of your passing.

Produce a digital will

When you give someone power of attorney or similar authority you should immediately make an inventory of all websites and online accounts in your name. Include the website name, web address, username, password, and any other relevant information like security questions and answers, PIN numbers or security codes, and account numbers. If you have two-factor authentication turned on for any account, be sure that’s noted, too, with instructions on how to login.

Then, make sure whoever you designate as your trusted contact knows how to find and use this digital inventory. Of course – do not include your passwords or other digital asset access information in your Last Will and Testament. The reason being, your will becomes a public document once you’ve passed away meaning anyone can read the sensitive information it may contain. In your will simply refer to an outside document which contains all the necessary information needed to settle your digital estate. Then you will be able to maintain your digital will, update it and add to it without having to formally change your will or put your digital assets at risk.