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The Impact of the Internet on Digital Afterlife

Estate Planning for the Electronic Age by Marissa KleinerMillions of people use computers to conduct business and interact socially, and for general communications. Many of those computer users are registered in some way on dozens of websites, including social media outlets such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook. With these outlets, not many users consider what happens when there is no longer anyone to maintain them.

Approximately thirty percent of people have their online presence continue after their death. This is largely due to two factors:

  1. They don’t provide anyone with login information or instructions on what accounts they have and what should be done with them.
  2. Most accounts do not require a payment of fees that would automatically cause them to lapse after nonpayment. This applies not only to social media outlets but also to other websites used to pay bills, shop online, make travel arrangements, and conduct banking, and even to “the cloud.”

Your identity can be stolen regardless of your status (dead or alive). However, it’s probably easier to steal the identity of someone who has passed away, because no one is around to notice. Ensure that after you have left the “real” world, you have left the “virtual” one as well.

This can be done by providing your executor or designated agent with a regularly updated list of all online identities and passwords, ensuring the list stays in a secure space, with passwords to any of your online accounts. You may think an easy solution would be to add this list to your Will, however, since a Will becomes a public document once filed with the Court, this would not be a wise decision.

You will also want to provide instructions to your agent on what to do with each account. If you have files that you do not want anyone to see, let your agent know to delete them. Decide whether you would like accounts closed or set up as memorials.

Different states may have different laws pertaining to how much control you can have over these accounts. For this reason, it is wise to check with an estate-planning attorney. They can help create a digital diary as a part of your estate plan. For more information on digital assets and how to protect them, contact Vincent J. Russo & Associates, P.C. today!

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