With the average person spending about two and a half hours on social media daily and possibly up to six hours on the internet, there’s no doubt we’ve all built a legacy on the web.
Have you ever thought about what happens after you pass away? Will your online presence turn into ghost accounts that are inaccessible to loved ones and susceptible to attackers?
In this article we discuss digital legacy, reasons and methods for securing your digital afterlife and how different types of accounts are managed after a user dies..
What is a Digital Legacy?
A digital legacy, also known as your digital estate, is your identity that lives on the web. It’s a combination of all your interactions, credentials, posts and presence on the internet. In addition to your online accounts, your digital estate includes all devices, virtual currencies, credit card points, airline miles, web browser bookmarks, multimedia, medical records and more.
Why Should You Plan for Your Digital Afterlife?
While it may seem strange to be discussing the afterlife while you’re still very much alive, planning for your passing protects and preserves all of the online efforts made during your lifetime.
Here are the top reasons why you should prepare for your digital afterlife:
Safety. An IBM report reveals 19% of data breaches are due to compromised credentials. You don’t want your information in the wrong hands, making your family and friends susceptible to the actions of malicious attackers.
Designation of your digital estate. Think about how your will defines the distribution of your physical assets. Planning for your digital afterlife ensures that the right people receive your online assets.
Maintenance of your legacy. While you may be unable to spare your loved ones heartache from your loss, you can make preparations to help them process your passing by leaving your accounts accessible as long as they need.
How to Secure Your Digital Afterlife
Anticipation and proper preparation during your lifetime can help you avoid the drawbacks of ghost accounts. Here are three steps to help you secure your digital afterlife:
1. Take an inventory of your digital estate
Just like you would for your physical estate, you should take stock of your online presence, credentials and digital estate. Your estate also includes goodwill such as loyalty cards, and liabilities such as recurring subscriptions.
2. Design a digital asset plan
Creating a digital estate plan ensures you make provisions for how a digital heir should manage each asset. For example, your plan may specify which accounts they should close, leave open or on hold and for how long. A digital estate plan safeguards your online identity and protects against malicious attempts by cybercriminals.
3. Allocate your digital assets to the right people
To ease execution of your digital asset plan, designate a digital heir to manage your estate. Think about how you can make the process of transferring all of your credentials and assets seamless. You should securely store digital versions of important documents such as wills, deeds and tax filings in a secure location such as a password manager.
How Social Apps Handle Your Digital Legacy
Social media remains one of the most popular uses of the internet. Here’s how social and communication apps handle your demise:
Google can notify up to 10 people after a period of inactivity. After an extended timeout of three, six, nine, 12 or 18 months — depending on your choice — Google sends notifications to your chosen accounts and makes your data available for download to those accounts with prior permission. You will also receive an alert one month before the period of inactivity lapses.
Twitter doesn’t have the option to assign a legacy contact. However, your relatives can complete a privacy form indicating their relationship with you to deactivate your account. If you want friends or family to manage your account, you’ll need to provide them with your credentials, which is why a password manager is essential. Keeper allows you to share credentials with emergency contacts who can administer your digital estate.
Microsoft allows you to appoint a next of kin, but they will have no access to your login details unless you provide them with a username and password. Upon verification of your digital executor, next of kin or benefactor of your estate, Microsoft provides your heirs with a DVD containing your account data. To begin the process, your next of kin needs to email firstname.lastname@example.org and provide proof of title and documentation of your death.
Facebook has the option to designate a legacy contact who can view your account details, but they’re restricted to pinning a post on your timeline indicating that you have passed on. Your legacy contact can also accept or reject friend requests and — with your permission — download an archive of your profile information, photos and videos.
Instagram, owned by Meta and like Facebook, has no legacy contact option. There is an option to memorialize accounts, meaning that users can view your account, but it will not be available on the apps’ public archives.
How Financial Companies Handle Your Digital Estate
Financial institutions such as banks will require a valid ID card of your spouse, family member or administrator and proof of authorization to conduct your affairs. Banks also request documentation such as certified copies of the death certificate, the deceased’s legal name, social security number, banking account numbers and other personal information. A deceased’s checking account can also be held in the name of a trust.
Binance, the most popular cryptocurrency exchange, allows loved ones to disable accounts if they have proof of your demise, such as a death certificate, and can establish an authority to administer your estate. This feature is only accessible to loved ones if the deceased performed a Know Your Customer (KYC) Level 2 Verification, which allows Binance to verify a user over a virtual interaction.
Mortgage providers are required by federal law to allow the surviving family, individuals or entities that inherit your property to make payments without needing to requalify for the loan. Heirs are not required to keep the home and have the option to sell. In the event that no one takes ownership of your property, the mortgage company begins the process of foreclosing on the home.
Many of these processes require your loved ones to have access to various personal documents. A password manager saves family and friends the hassle of locating your documents by securely storing your data in a vault.
For business owners, Keeper allows you to store your digital estate and login details that you can share with administrators of your estate.
E-Commerce Vendor Provisions for Digital Assets
With about 70% of U.S. adults shopping online as of 2021, e-commerce has become integral to daily transactions. This is how online shopping platforms handle your accounts upon your demise:
Amazon allows a spouse, close family member or digital executor to close a deceased’s account by contacting Amazon support and providing proof, such as a death certificate. Asides from closure, any further actions on your account will require additional documentation indicating their activities are legally binding on your behalf. Amazon will transfer any points or gift certificates.
Walmart requires relatives or heirs to access the deceased’s email account and find an order number. Then, you’ll need to provide email, order ID and billing details by phone to 1-800-966-6546 or contact them via their live chat portal, which promises a response within four hours.
With a password manager, you can deactivate your shopping accounts and clear your data to avoid exposure of credit card details upon your passing.
Use a Password Manager to Provide Your Heir With the Right Access
While different apps have their procedures for your next of kin, it can be challenging to keep track of all of your online assets. Password managers like Keeper help you manage your credentials and share them with the appropriate people.
Ready to handle your business so you’re set when the time comes? Start a free Keeper trial today!