FDP_AcctsFile_Stuart_Miles - ResizedImage courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s a lot of talk in the organizing industry these days, about what happens with your online accounts after you pass away.  You may be asking yourself, ‘why do I care?’ After all, you’ll be gone so does it really matter?  The answer is, yes it does matter.

Whether you’re active on social media, or just pay bills online, you have an online presence. When you have an online presence, you’re vulnerable to hackers – identity theft aficionados. They are ever vigilant to your online activities.  They can wreak havoc on the living as well as those that have passed away.

At some point, we have all been the victim of identity theft in some manner. Even if you don’t partake in the activities mentioned above, you could have fallen victim to identity theft.  This can happen simply by using a credit or debit card at a local store. It can also happen when you secure a loan for a car or a mortgage, even when we obtain health insurance. We hear about it frequently via the news media. Check out this article I wrote for some tips on how to protect your personal information.

Protecting your personal information and online accounts while you’re alive is very important, but what about after you pass away?  We all know, or should know, that it’s important to keep a list of accounts,  login credentials, keep it updated, and keep it in a safe place.  It’s also important to have an estate plan that documents your final wishes.  I’m not a legal representative, so the suggestions I make to you today are based on research and my own personal experience.

When you start your planning, one of the first things to do is to determine the person to select as your personal representative. This person will carry out your documented final wishes. They need to know what your plans are, their responsibilities to act as your personal representative, and where to find the documents.

Part of your estate planning should include a separate list of all of your accounts, and login credentials as mentioned above.  As I did some research for this article, I found some very interesting information. One thing I learned is that you don’t want to put a list of your accounts in a will because it is a public document.

Another tidbit of information I learned has to do with social media & email accounts.  When we create a social media account, we agree to their terms & conditions.  This is a long, legal, boring contract that most of us, me included, don’t read.  Typically, they state in this contract, that it is illegal for anyone but the person that created the account to access it even if given permission.  Currently, lawmakers are working to override these contracts in the event of a death.  Social media sites are also realizing the ramifications of their contracts, and they are providing options to deal with accounts of those that have passed away. This article provides information on options for a number of social media sites.

In a nutshell, a digital estate plan is a document that states your final wishes with regards to your online presence.  There are a lot of stories on the internet that tell of parents that have lost a child, that have had to engage an attorney to access their child’s social media accounts to shut them down.  That is something that none of us should have to do for our loved ones.

Do you a digital estate plan?