Taking care of your digital assets (e.g. website, blog, ebooks etc.) and your online presence in social media after your death, takes a bit of advance planning.
This ensures that your facebook profile does not continue to get posts to your timeline, people leaving comments on your blog without getting a response or a colleague endorsing you on LinkedIn without knowing you have passed away. All of which may be painful reminders for your family and friends.
The most practical idea is to create a Social Media Will enabling you to appoint a Digital Executor and leave instructions on how you want every online account to be finalized.
The executor of your Last Will and Testament may be your spouse or other family member or a professional such as your accountant or attorney.
However, when it comes to your digital executor, you need someone who is tech savvy which may well be the same person as your appointed executor. Alternatively your (adult) child could be a good choice!
We've compiled an Addendum to a Last Will and Testament to address this. We also provide a template for a Social Media Will. Both documents can be found on our page dealing with Social Media and Digital Assets.
It is not a good idea to list your digital information and login details in your will, since it will become public knowledge once presented for probate. In the Addendum the social media will is referenced but does not form part of the last will and testament.
You could make use of our App and completely bypass the need to capture anything on paper. Much easier to update from time to time!
You will be able to securely and confidentially store your login details, appoint an executor who can access the information when you pass away and who can follow the instructions on closing your accounts.
Visit our EndExec App page to register your email address and get advance notice when we launch our APP!
Note: Although you may access your bank or investment accounts online, they remain part of your physical assets and must be disposed of in your Last Will and Testament. Follow this link to see a variety of free legal will forms.
There are a couple of ways to deal with these digital assets, especially important if they generate an income which must be accounted for in your estate assets.
In all the above instances it will not be handled in your Social Media will.
However, if it is a site or blog that does not generate an income, you can list it in your social media will with instructions on how it must be dealt with after you pass away.
The Web is everchanging and legislation is not keeping pace in many instances. Some social media sites may prohibit anyone but the original account holder to access and edit a profile, even with written permission.
Tracking instances where it is happening and enforcing the rule is a different story.
The onus is on you to to review the terms and conditions of use on the websites where you have a presence to see what your options and their requirements are in finalizing your account.
Many social media sites grant a user's licence to a person who creates an account and this licence expires upon the death of the account holder. The accounts therefor become inactive and are not to be accessed by another person.
However, if your accounts are held in a legal entity such as a trust then the trustee(s) have the right to control these accounts after the death of the person who created the trust.
Unlike a will where the information (login details and passwords) becomes public once it is admitted to probate, a trust's details remain confidential.
You need to consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction to assist you with creating your trust.
Here are some of the more popular social media sites with links to their help pages on closing down accounts. This list is by no means exhaustive but will illustrate the options open to you and help you compile your instructions to your digital executor.
A Google Account can consist of a myriad of services all accessed from one login. Part of it may be personal such as your GMail and YouTube accounts.
However, other services such as Google Analytics, AdSense and Google+ may be associated with a website or blog (or a number of them) under one profile and these will be of interest to the person(s) taking over your site or blog.
You could then direct your executor to export the historical data for a specified period and hand that over to the third party prior to deleting your account.
Amazon's eBooks and iTunes are licensed, not sold, to the account holder. Such a licence expires when a person dies and cannot be handed down to another person.
People continuously add more services and accounts to their profiles. Inasmuch as you would update your last will and testament when, for example, you get divorced or have another child, so should you periodically update your Social Media Will to include any other online profiles you've created ore digital assets accrued.