by Walter Doerschuk
Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can do just about anything online these days. Whether it’s watching a movie, checking your bank account balance, shopping for clothes or ordering pizza, each activity likely requires a username and password.
Studies have shown the average American internet user has 150 online accounts that require a login. That’s a lot of passwords to manage on a day-to-day basis. But have you ever wondered what happens to your accounts and logins after you’re gone?
As our digital footprints expand with each passing year, experts now recommend taking steps to manage your online accounts as part of the estate planning process. Like preparing a will, buying a life insurance policy or choosing an executor, a little bit of planning can make life much easier for those managing your estate when you pass.
Here are four ways you can plan ahead to make deactivating your online accounts quick and easy:
1. Create an inventory of your accounts.
To delete online accounts after your death, it’s important to know which digital logins existed in the first place. That’s why it’s helpful to make a complete inventory of your online accounts and the login information for each. Be sure to list every account you can think of, including:
- Bank accounts
- Credit cards
- Retirement and savings plans
- Social media profiles
- Shopping sites
- Insurance policies
- Bills and utilities
- Subscription services
For each account, include the website address, username, password, account numbers and answers to security questions. You may want to consider using a password manager to keep everything in one secure place.
2. Name a digital executor.
Similarly to an estate executor who manages your last will and testament, a digital executor can be named to take charge of your digital assets. Once assigned, the digital executor can be responsible for:
- Archiving any files, photos, video or other content you’ve created
- Deleting files and erasing hard drives
- Maintaining certain online accounts while closing others
- Transferring accounts to your heirs
- Notifying online outlets of your death
- Canceling recurring payments
Many states will allow you to legally name a digital executor in your will but since the need for managing online assets is fairly new, some states don’t recognize this role yet. Check with your estate attorney to learn the regulations in your state.
3. Understand each provider’s terms of service.
For every online account you create, you must agree to the provider’s terms of service. If you’re like most people, you probably scrolled to the bottom of the page to click “I agree” without reading the fine print.
But in the terms of service, there’s often language addressing how accounts are disabled in the event of a user’s death. Facebook, for instance, provides an option where a deceased person’s profile can be turned into a memorialized account. Commerce platforms like Amazon and PayPal require an executor to contact the company directly to deactivate an account. Understanding the policies of each account can help in providing instructions for your digital executor.
4. Delete unnecessary accounts. After creating an inventory of your online accounts, get a head start on cleaning up your digital presence by deleting accounts you no longer need. Having fewer active profiles will make life easier for your digital executor while also helping to protect you from the possibility of identity theft. And it will save you the embarrassment of someone finding those old Myspace photos.
PLAN FOR THE FUTURE
Like writing your will, the choices you make now about life insurance will ultimately speak on your behalf in representing your intentions for loved ones and family. As guardians of that legacy, Erie Insurance can help you make choices that will be true to your values.
Talk to a Bowers Insurance agent to learn more about how you can protect your family’s future.