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Digital estate planning: what happens to your social media accounts when you die?

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With the proliferation of social media sites, multiple email accounts, logins at various financial institution websites, multiple computers and smart phones, the amount of personal information stored in the “cloud” continues to grow.

So, what happens when you die?  How can you protect your digital footprint and make it easy for someone to manage, transfer, download and/or close these various accounts?

These questions are what John Romano and Evan Carroll attempt to answer with their website The Digital Beyond and their newly released book Your Digital Afterlife.  They were recently interviewed on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air and offered some smart advice on how to manage this process before you pass on.

For example, Yahoo! and its other owned Web properties operating under the assumption that privacy survives death.  Therefore, any content stored under the Yahoo! umbrella remains inaccessible to next of kin or executors upon your death.  Other online services assume differently.

Carroll and Romano suggest naming a digital executor to manage your online assets.  Someone savvy to the ways of computers and the Internet.  In addition, they recommend a centralized place to keep login information so that it is convenient for your executor to access your online accounts.

At Imaginary, we recommend the use of a password safe to store all online passwords.  A password safe is an encrypted database that requires its own password to view.  However, once you enter that password, all your other login information is available.  The password safe can be the centralized place.  Then, you just need to share the password safe password with a digital executor.

Or, you can go old school by creating a printout of all your important passwords and placing it in your safe deposit box.

It's an interesting topic and one sure to gain in popularity as more information moves online.  It's prudent to make digital planning a part of your estate planning process.  

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