Your Digital Life After Death
We are many decades past the time when heirs' privacy-related tasks were limited to shredding paper, cancelling accounts, notifying the post office, and maybe checking a safe deposit box. Today, everyone has digital assets. That includes everything from sensitive personal and professional data to social media profiles.
There are laws that govern some of these issues, and if you make sure that your survivors have your passwords and other relevant information, you will save them a lot of time and headaches.
Start by using a form to list things such as passwords, accounts held, subscriptions, and so on. There are several such forms at DeathPlanner.net.
If you use a password manager such as 1Password, the service should let you set up an "emergency kit" with account info that you then print or download and place somewhere safe where your survivors are sure to find it. Some services, such as Keeper and Dashline, allow for a chosen contact person to be notified if a set amount of time passes without you logging into your accounts.
Be mindful if you have two-factor authentication set up anywhere, because some systems require access to your cell phone for secondary codes. Speaking of your cell phone, make sure to leave behind your passcode as well.
Online Accounts and Cloud Services
Each service has different policies and procedures for dealing with accounts post-death, which is why it's important to plan as much as you can up front, whether it's simply providing passwords or designating someone to access an account in your stead.
You can give another party (actually, up to 10 "executors") permission to access your Google account and even download photos you've uploaded there, plus other data. For the Inactive Accounts Manager, choose how much time must pass without you signing into a Google service. Once that time passes, it triggers the sending of an email prewritten by you to your chosen executor(s).
If you've set up cloud backups, be sure that you not only leave behind password information but instructions on how to access any encrypted data.
You'll also want to note any old computers, hard drives, and other places that hold your data. Even if the data is no longer needed, this hardware should eventually be disposed of securely.
If you have old discs, thumb drives, or other items containing sensitive financial or personal information, you'll want to make a note of that as well. They will need to be safely archived or destroyed. On the flip side, if your family photos are collected on an external hard drive, in the cloud, or elsewhere that's not immediately clear, be sure to tell someone. Better yet, write it down on your list and include any relevant passwords. Consider duplicating the list and placing it inside one of your physical photo albums or photo boxes.
In some respects, you're immortal on social media. But after you die, your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and other accounts are vulnerable to hacking and other breaches. Also, consider whether you want your profiles to remain online after you pass. Some people like to continue to feel "connected" to friends and loved ones by allowing them to read old posts and messages or by posting and sharing to a memoriam profile, while to others, a post-mortem social media presence is just creepy. Your chance to weigh in is while you are still alive.
You'll need to decide who should be the keeper of your passwords for these sites. Some, such as Facebook, let you set up a "trusted friend" legacy contact who will have access to certain aspects of your account after you die. Facebook also allows the nuclear option of letting you set your account to delete everything once it's notified and verifies your death. Instagram has the option to memorialize an account or delete it altogether.
You can also simply Google the name of the social media platform and "after death" or "legacy account" to learn more. For example, Twitter will work with "a person who is authorized to act on behalf of the state, or with a verified immediate family member," to remove the deceased user's account but will not provide account access to anyone. This is yet another reason why you should make your passwords available to a trusted party.
Remember, any research and work you do regarding these matters ahead of time will save your heirs time and will also protect your privacy in death.