While contemplating the aftereffects of a person’s death is rarely pleasant. it is important that everyone gets around to having some sort of death plan. One aspect many people fail to consider is handling their online and social media accounts upon departing. As to why it should matter how your Twitter or Facebook will continue after your death, the greatest benefit of social media is it keeps people connected. An account that stays active after its owner dies serves as a sort of digital memento mori, letting them hold onto the memories of that person.
It should also be mentioned that no digital account should go without someone to safeguard it. No one wants their virtual memorial to become targeted by fraudsters, or hackers with aspirations of identity theft, either of the deceased or the deceased’s friends and followers. Omitting online accounts in a will can lead to trouble for your estate and good name, leaving them susceptible to exploitation.
One of the most imperative pieces of legislation regarding this subject is the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, or “FADA.” This legislation ensures that a person can legally transfer their digital inventory to another party. FADA also has several variant acts and all of them are laws to ensure a person’s wishes are adhered to regardless of state lines. Currently, FADA has either passed or is being considered in 20 states.
FADA’s existence gives people the able to legally share accounts post-mortem that would otherwise be forbidden by most sites’ terms. This discrepancy has led to situations like the family of deceased Marine Justin Ellsworth suing Yahoo! in order to access his email. The increased prevalence and connectivity of our digital accounts means legislation like FADA will only become more vital to maintaining legacies in the future.
Anyone looking to prepare their digital inheritance should consider the following:
Decide which usernames and passwords you want handled.
Remember to include “need to know” information, especially financial issues.
Make a list of all important files and accounts that should be part of your legacy.
Mention valuable online purchases and acquisitions in a will, but never passwords.
Include directions for each account and membership. Which to delete; which to be made private after death; etc.