Settling Your Online Affairs
Making a standard Last Will and Testament is a no-brainer, but it’s important to leave instructions for your digital accounts to prepare for the day when you yourself go offline.
Getting Digitally Organized, Part 1
These days almost everyone logs into accounts for banking, credit cards, shopping, and music, not to mention social networking. Leave a paper trail for your heirs.
- Your digital fingerprint is probably in more places than you think. Check through these categories one by one:
- Financial accounts: checking, savings, brokerage, pension and retirement accounts such as 401(k) or 403(b) accounts; credit and debit cards; safety deposit box.
- Utilities: cell phone, land line, gas, electric, cable, gas, oil.
- Transportation and household accounts: Auto loans and auto insurance, transit cards, EZ Pass, parking garage, mortgage, home and auto insurance, garden and lawn services, snow- removal contract, exterminator, caretaker, veterinarian.
- Shopping services like Amazon, Zappos or Gilt Group (suggestion: add each to an ongoing list when signing up), department stores, grocery delivery services, auction sites like eBay, gaming or other entertainment sites, frequent flyer programs, Kindle accounts, subscriptions for financial websites; automatic renewals for print or digital magazines.
- Delete credit card information from shopping sites and PayPal.
Getting Digitally Organized, Part 2
- Pick someone to close out your account on social networking sites like Facebook, business sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and others.
- In the meantime, sign off with those you no longer use, like MySpace.
- Your legal representative can post a notice informing others of your status when the time comes. Don’t forget blogs or personal websites.
- Perhaps you signed up for music providers like iTunes and Pandora, and/or photo-sharing sites such as Picasa and Snapfish. How about all those YouTube videos? And, of course, you’ve got mail!
- iTunes doesn’t permit transfers to a new user upon the owner’s demise: the account must be closed. But it’s perfectly legal to back up your music onto your hard drive in the here and now!
Help is on the Way
The next step is making a list of all your usernames and passwords. Some options for storing and accessing the information:
- Old-school types can make an actual written list and put it in a file drawer or special place that you share with a trusted and preferably tech-savvy heir.
- But don’t put the information in a Will, which becomes a matter of public record upon your death.
- Online safe deposit boxes let you store user names and passwords. SecureSafe lets you have 50 passwords, 10 megabytes of storage and one beneficiary for free.
- Google comes to the rescue with a program called Inactive Account Manager.
- Access this by going to google.com/settings/account, look for account management and follow the appropriate instructions.
- Google allows 10 names to be notified that your account has been deactivated and informs them when they can download photos, videos and documents left to them.
- There’s an option to delete all your emails and other information too.
- The online giant has multiple safeguards in place to ensure that your accounts are not deleted prematurely
A recent survey says that 45% of high net worth individuals have not made a list of their digital accounts, although 87% drafted Wills. Take steps now to avoid giving your heirs a virtual headache later on.