What happens to your online accounts after you die?
Increasingly common is our accumulation of online stuff – we don’t just have accounts online but photos, music, important messages and maybe even an alter-ego, too. All of this is thought of as property and a record of our lives.
Your online stuff doesn’t belong to you
It’s usual that your online stuff, depositories and personas don’t belong to you. The terms and conditions – the long ramble you agreed to when you first set the account up – may state that the asset will be closed down after a death. Sharing passwords, too, will usually breach terms and conditions and transferring the account to another person won’t be possible. After your death, it’s usual that someone else will not be allowed to access or use your account. So, if you’ve got a lot of personal stuff stored online it may be worth thinking about planning what you want done with it.
How to plan for your digital death
You could start by letting your family know what online accounts you have, including the any online banking or utility bills. Making the whole household financially aware of its day to day runnings will also mean there will be less confusion as to what payments need to be sorted after you die.
It might be helpful to keep details of accounts and passwords somewhere safe, such as in an envelope you can then keep with your will, or on a flash drive. You’ll need to note down the password to this too, if it’s encrypted.
Accessing your social media and online storage after your death
A growing online presence means we’re leaving traces of ourselves all over the Internet. Commonly, these traces belong to the platforms that allow us to socialise, keep information and run our day to day lives online.
Here’s the possible accounts that contain your online traces and the ways they can be accessed:
You can have your Facebook account ‘memorialised’ after you die. This turns your wall into a page where people can leave comments. The content on the Facebook account can also be downloaded, as there may be the outline of a smash-hit biography on there. Or, the account can just be deleted. Facebook will ask you for some documentation, such as a copy of the death certificate, in order for someone to do any of this.
A Twitter account can be deactivated on behalf of the person who’s died, but Twitter doesn’t allow account access to another person. This is regardless of your relationship to the person and regardless of whether you want to continue the great 140-character handiwork of SteveTheAvenger99.
In order to do this your Twitter username, a death certificate and a signed statement will be required.
It may be that you’ve stored photos of grandchildren or videos from your favourite holidays in online storage. It may be that your Dropbox folder can be easily accessed on your Desktop. If someone can’t get access to this folder, or it hasn’t been ‘synced’ to the computer lately, then you can send Dropbox a request. You’ll have to provide a copy of the death certificate and evidence that the person wished you to access the file.
Gmail or Google
When Google get an email request to access or close an account, they’ll also want to see a death certificate. Google will then ask for more legal documents, after which they’ll decide what to do with the account.
If you use an iPad
There’s usually no need to contact GCHQ in order to access someone’s iPad. Though, if the passcode isn’t known then the device will have to be wiped using iTunes. A backup can then be used to put data and settings on to the iPad again.
Our daily lives are governed and helped along by our digital assets. It follows that we give serious thought to our digital death and the ways in which we can plan for it alongside the more tangible elements of our going. If you’ve ever made, recorded or celebrated a memory or milestone online, it may be worthwhile backing it up somewhere.