From advanced directives to last will and testaments, end-of-life planning often focuses on medical and financial decisions. But what happens to our digital footprint after we die? And how can we plan ahead to protect our online accounts and information?
A deceased person’s (and family’s) financial information can be left vulnerable in inactive online social media and email accounts. Likewise, surviving family members may not be able to gain access to a relative’s account without prior planning, risking the loss of family photos, videos, documents, and other mementos. As with all end-of-life planning, you have options. Here’s an end-of-life digital planning check-list to aid your planning:
–Have a conversation about your online presence with your loved ones.
- Do you want to have your social media profiles preserved after death? Do you want your public profiles deleted after you die? Do you want others to be able to read your blog posts or view your YouTube/Vimeo videos? Talk together and write down your decisions.
–Make an inventory of your online accounts including your social media and email accounts, as well as accompanying web addresses.
–Share your log-in credentials (usernames and passwords) with a trusted friend or family member.
- Despite social media’s adaptations to accommodate end-of-life planning, sharing log-in information remains the best way to ensure your wishes are carried out.
–Establish account preferences and contact information in your social media profiles:
- Facebook: Decide if you want to have your account memorialized (saving an existing version accessible online) or deleted after your death. Likewise, register a legacy contact to have access to your personal information and account details after your death.
- Gmail and YouTube: For Gmail, YouTube, and all other Google-based accounts, use Google’s Inactive Account Manager to establish a trusted contact with whom to share your personal information after death.
- Pinterest: How to delete a deceased person’s Pinterest account.
- Instagram: How to memorialize your Instagram account.
- LinkedIn: How to delete a deceased person’s LinkedIn account.
- These platforms allow users to decide how they would like their social presence and email accounts treated after their death, as well as schedule future messages to be posted to their social media profiles posthumously. For example, users may want to leave a goodbye message immediately after their passing or schedule future messages to friends and family on birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays.
Billy Kluttz, MDiv, MPA, is New Media Coordinator at Seabury Resources for Aging. He loves social media, college basketball, and all things southern. Learn more about Seabury’s online resources for older adults and family caregivers, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.