In today’s cyber-oriented society, your online or digital assets can be just as important to your estate as your traditional assets, so it’s important to know how they will be handled after your death.
Your digital assets include social media accounts, digital photos, email and online banking accounts and other important electronic files and records.
Many online companies will not release account information to a deceased person’s friends or family in an effort to maintain the terms and agreements established when the account was created. However, some companies have begun implementing policies that make dealing with a deceased user’s account easier.
Here are a few policies of popular online services to keep in mind, saving your next-of-kin from hassle or worry after you’re gone.
Google – Rather than requiring a loved one to gain access to a Google user’s account after they’ve passed away, Google launched a product called Inactive Account Manager that allows users to specify what happens to their data after they have been inactive for various lengths of time. After three, six or 12 months of inactivity, users can request that their data—which includes emails from Gmail accounts, videos in YouTube, pictures in Picasa and documents on Google Drive—be deleted.
Yahoo — While Yahoo does not provide passwords or access to deceased users’ accounts, including email content, the company will allow you to request that your loved one’s account be closed, billing and premium services suspended and any contents permanently deleted for privacy. The person requesting the account closing will have to present a letter that includes the Yahoo ID of the deceased, documentation that states that you are the personal representative or executor of the estate and a copy of the death certificate.
Outlook – The Microsoft Next of Kin process allows for the release of Outlook.com contents, including all emails and their attachments, address book, and Messenger contact list, to the next of kin of a deceased or incapacitated account holder and/or closure of the Microsoft account, following a short authentication process. To request access to a deceased account holder’s content, email Microsoft at [email protected].
Social Media Accounts
Facebook — Facebook will follow a family’s wishes to take down a deceased user’s profile or “memorialize” it by removing features such as status updates and letting only confirmed friends view the profile and post comments. Additionally, Facebook allows users to select a family member or friend as their legacy contact, which gives them access to their profile when they die. Your legacy contact will be permitted to manage the profile after a memorialization request has been made.
Instagram — Similarly, Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) will allow an immediate family member of a deceased person to request that their account be memorialized after they provide the person’s birth certificate, death certificate or proof of authority under local law. The profile of a memorialized Instagram account doesn’t appear differently from an account that hasn’t been memorialized, but memorialized accounts don’t appear in public spaces, such as the Explore section.
Twitter – Twitter will deactivate the account of a user who has died if a confirmed immediate relative can provide proof of death.
Online Banking Accounts
The best thing to do when dealing with the finances of a deceased loved one is get in touch with the financial institution in question. Most offer bereavement support, so they’ll be able to guide you through your next steps.
Typically, if the bank account is in your name alone, but your spouse is named a “payable-on-death” beneficiary of the account, he or she can take over ownership of the account after presenting the financial institution with your death certificate. However, if you have an account in your own name and did not designate a payable-on-death beneficiary, the executor of the estate will be left to sort out the finances and ensure all accounts are frozen or closed.
Most of the headaches that may arise from trying to access a loved one’s account after they’ve died can be prevented by discussing their wishes beforehand. Providing a trusted loved one with a document containing login information to your various online accounts is a great way to ensure someone can access files that you may not want to be deleted.
If you’d like to begin the process of discussing a broad range of subjects related to handling your affairs, call Bevis Funeral Home at 850- 385-2193.