your digital legacyDoes anyone truly die in the 21st century? The Internet is an integral part of our lives. Online banking, social media, a digital library of movies, books and music, email, photos stored in the Cloud – we all have accounts and an Internet presence that we don’t think much about unless we are hacked. When people die, pieces of them and their digital assets remain online. Your digital legacy adds yet another layer to your estate planning.

In this new reality where online life and the physical world blur together, it’s important to think about how your digital assets and legacy will be handled when you pass away. With most websites requiring a password change every few months for security, even a written record can become obsolete and make it difficult to access investments and outstanding bills. When it comes to social media, accounts are not owned by the user and cannot be passed down in a will. Still, there are a couple steps you can take to help simplify the process.

Protect Your Digital Legacy

Learn About Social Media Options: Every social media site handles a user’s death a little differently. Facebook has a legacy option, in which you can designate someone with the power to leave a final message to friends and family, archive photos, and provide updates. Instagram’s legacy feature does not allow changes to be made, however, the account will no longer appear in public searches. Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter and LinkedIn will delete an account if provided proof of death by a family member.

Designate a Digital Manager: As part of your estate planning documents, designate someone you trust to manage your digital estate. Maintain an up-to-date a list of important online accounts, digital libraries and electronic devices, as well as your login information for each. Also provide your digital manager with the email address associated with them, which can help him or her gain access if passwords have changed.

Written by Alicia Vallee, a Phoenix-based freelance writer.