What Happens to Digital Accounts When You Die?

Facebook login screenSocial media is great, since it lets you can connect with faraway friends and family.  MP3s and online television networks like Hulu and Netflix are fun as well, since they give you the opportunity to enjoy music and television programs on any device and on your schedule.  Of course, let’s not forget about how great email is. Write a message, hit send and it’s off.

Have you ever given any thought to what will happen to your digital accounts when you die?  Like most people, you probably haven’t given much thought to your digital accounts, since it isn’t a physical thing or even an asset.  Still, it is something that you need to consider because your online accounts don’t just disappear when you die. According to Intel Security, the average person has 27 different logins.  Yikes! That’s a lot of passwords to manage, so it would make sense to set up a plan for your digital assets after your death.

The first thing you need to do is have a document drafted by your attorney authorizing companies that hold your digital information to disclose the information to your executor or other representative. An elder law attorney can help you through this process. This authorization can be included in your will, so that your executor can request a copy of the contents of your digital accounts.

Once you have done that, you can also do the following:

1. Make a list of Passwords

If you haven’t already done so, make a list of your all your digital accounts from email to social media and everything in between. It is a good idea to write this in an address book or type your passwords and put them in a binder. While there are online services that will save passwords for you, it is better to go the old fashioned route since online services can be hacked, making your confidential information vulnerable. Also, if you keep your information in a computer without printing it out, your executor can’t get a hold of it.  Paper will allow people to access the online sites you use with a minimum of trouble.  Be sure to list your username, passwords and the security questions and answers (i.e. Where did you attend school in the third grade?). Also, if anything should happen to you and you become incapacitated, family members can have a way to access your accounts to make such there is no unusual activity.

2. Don’t Overlook Social Media

Since Facebook and Twitter are the most used social media sites, I will focus on those. If you have an account on Facebook, you can have your account memorialized, meaning that people can post messages, but no one can access the account. In addition, you can request the removal of a loved one’s account from Facebook.  You need to provide Facebook with a scan of the death certificate.  If you don’t have the death certificate, Facebook accepts a power of attorney, birth certificate, Will or estate letter. Work with an elder law attorney to ensure that you have these documents on hand in advance to make the process easier on your family. You can learn more by going to Facebook’s Help Center.

It is less complicated for Twitter.  You can sign into the Twitter account, go to Account Settings, read the account deactivation, then Click Okay, fine, deactivate account.  Enter the password when prompted and verify that you want to deactivate the account.  More information can be found on Twitter’s Support Center. For other social media platforms, go to the support/help section of the site for information about closing accounts.

3. Don’t Forget Financial/Shopping Sites

Most computer users have online banking, shopping, news or other accounts, including online bill pay. What will happen to those accounts to when you die?  For both Amazon and eBay, you have to contact them to close an account.  For online bill pay and brokerage accounts, go to the help center of the site in question to find out how to close the account.

Our online accounts have become like a shoebox under the bed.  Yet, unlike the shoebox, spouses and children can’t just open up your account without the right information.  Protect yourself, your personal information and your assets by making sure your loved ones or executor have the emails, ID’s and passwords to access what they need to in order to close out your accounts when the time comes.


Inside Indiana Business – Estate Planning for the Digital World

Kiplinger – Protect Digital Assets After Your Death

One thought on “What Happens to Digital Accounts When You Die?

  1. I really appreciate the insight here in this post and confident it’s going to be helpful to me and many others. I’m wondering if you or anyone else has additional sources for me to read further and to be able to dig a little deeper?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *