None of us lives forever, but our presence in social media may go on forever after we take our last breath. Planning for what we want the end of our life encompasses many things; wills, medical directives, HIPAA releases, cremation versus burial, and even what kind of a ceremony we may want. I’d like to add one more item to your list, what do you want to happen to your digital assets?
Take a moment and think about your digital footprint. Consider social media; are you on Facebook, Google (this includes Google +, Picasa, YouTube), Twitter, Pinterest? Do you network on LinkedIn, Referral Key, etc.? Maybe you have a profile on Meetup, pictures on Flickr, Snapfish, or Instagram or you’re an active Yelp user. If you’re dating, you could have a profile on Match, Zoosk, Our Time, or eHarmony. What about gaming or the granddaddy of them all, email?
Before becoming overwhelmed, my first recommendation is to make a list of all your digital assets. Once that’s done, take some time to think about what you want to happen to them after you die. Part of your consideration should be what do your survivors want? Would they like to remember you, look at pictures of old trips together, and enjoy the memories?
Do you want someone to keep or go through all your email? If you file things in email folders, do you want an heir to have access to that, and would it help them in wrapping up loose ends after you die. Do you want a profile to remain up so friends and family can remember you, and if so, how long do you want it to be available?
If you don’t want a profile to remain open, who do you want to act on your behalf to have the account closed or deleted? When do you want it closed, and is there any information such as posts or pictures you believe should be obtained before it’s shut down?
Once you’ve outlined what you want, the next step is to determine what each site allows. If we look at social media, some sites have a procedure to delete a person and their posts, pictures, etc. from the site, while others don’t. Facebook, for example, will not remove a person’s page after they die. They’ll “memorialize” the account; no one will be able to log in or change any settings such as adding or removing content, pictures, or friends. People will still be able to write on your timeline though and view it if they’ve had access while you were alive.
Twitter, LinkedIn, and Yahoo have a process to deactivate an account. Twitter needs the request to come from a family member or someone authorized to act on behalf of the estate, a copy of the death certificate, and information to confirm the account belongs to the deceased. LinkedIn, initiates the process with electronically signing a form which is followed up with a request for information about you and the relationship of the person who’s making the request for you. If you have an account with Yahoo, it ends when you do.
If you make the decision to have accounts closed or deleted, there is one thing you should not do. Do not put log in and passwords for any account in your will. In some cases, wills are made public. I can’t imagine anyone or their survivors wanting that information published.
What do you want to happen with your digital assets? Share your thoughts, suggestions, experiences, and questions with us in the comments section of our blog, or on our Google + and Facebook pages. I’d love to hear from you!