Have you ever considered what happens to your online digital assets after you die? Many aspects of our lives are online. It’s important to think about what happens to these accounts when we die.
Digital assets refers here to any online accounts and the data held within, which may include personal information and/or critical data about our lives. In some cases, these digital accounts contain financial assets that others don’t know exist.
Do you have one or more online accounts that hold private and important information? Most of us do and have not planned for what will happen to these accounts and this information after we’re gone.
We may forget to keep track of all of our digital accounts. If we don’t know how to access all of our online accounts, how can we expect our loved ones to be able to once we’re gone?
Whenever we create a new online account, we don’t always think about how long that account may exist. In many cases, it will exist forever, unless we cancel it.
What happens to our digital assets when we die?
Unfortunately, some people only think of this after a loved one died and they’re trying to make sense of online banking, social media accounts, photo and cloud storage and shopping accounts.
Each account that we sign up for typically requires basic to detailed personal information before joining the program, which is then stored online until we decide otherwise. It’s important to consider what will happen to the information you have saved online long after you’re gone. Will your files be available to those who need them? And, will they be kept private from those who shouldn’t have access?
In some cases, our digital accounts are automatically cancelled upon notification of death. Some of our digital assets may be specifically accounted for within a trust or will and will be taken care of appropriately. What happens to accounts that aren’t automatically cancelled and aren’t included in a trust or will? Will they go on forever, containing digitally-stored information that our loved ones can never get access to, simply because we forgot to give someone the login information before we died?
Include digital assets in your planning
You should start deciding now how your digital assets will be managed after you die. There are some companies that offer digital asset services. Research your options and choose a tool that you feel most comfortable with. Many of the available tools offer free trials, so try them and decide which works best for you.
These tools can help surviving family members and other authorized loved ones to access important information and assets, memorialize or close accounts, and more. Setting up a digital asset storage system is a great way to ensure that all of your digital assets are protected and able to be shared with those that you choose when you die.
Here are a few:
Everplans offers a tool to help store and project all your assets in digital form – such as your online accounts, social media profiles, music, photos, and more. All data is stored securely in a vault that can be shared with authorized users. They offer a 60-day free trial.
GoodTrust offers a place for all of your documents and social sites to remain secure as well as a tool to create a digital will. They also offer a service where you can send future messages to loved ones. GoodTrust also helps family members who need to secure the digital assets of a loved one who has already died.
Types of digital assets
Many people have a profile on at least one of the following social media networks:
Financial accounts: With so many ways to save, invest, analyze and transfer financial information online, people may have several accounts, which are accessible online. Examples include:
- Accounting software
- Online bank accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Insurance accounts
- Annuity accounts
- Investment accounts
- Online payment portals
Many of us have subscriptions that renew automatically including:
- Digital magazine and newspaper subscriptions
- Automatic home delivery services
- Streaming services (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu)
- Music (iTunes, Spotify, Pandora)
- Phone and internet subscriptions
- Online learning subscriptions
Photos and documents storage:
- Geneology sites
- Word processing sites (Google Docs, Microsoft 365, Dropbox)
- Photo storage sites (Shutterfly, Google Drive, iCloud, Flickr)
- Personal websites
For further information, here’s a post on embracing technology in the funeral industry.