Codicil to Add to your Will – Disposal of Your Digital Assets
We were still in shock over the sudden demise of a dear family friend. But the bereaved family had no time for grieving. The gentleman had not left any will and no one had any clear idea about his financial and physical assets. The family was running from pillar to post, trying to sort out the mess.
“Tomorrow, you and I will go meet our lawyer and find out how to draw up our will. I want us to leave everything in order, with specific instructions, so that there are no complications for the kids later,” announced my spouse one fine morning.
I readily agreed; however, I had a question.
“OK, but what about our digital assets?”
The spouse looked confused and so I continued, “Shouldn’t we also make arrangements for how we want our digital assets to be handled post our decease?”
Most of us in the age group of 40-60 years are active in the digital world in a big way, with multiple online accounts- from social media, banking, travel booking, trading, e-mail, e-transaction to blogs, e-wallets and home service. We share personal photos and videos online. We also deal with virtual currency, the records of which are stored online. The sum of all this digital data is loosely termed as our digital asset.
You may wonder what’s the big deal about a will for digital assets as some may not even have any monetary value. Well, it will help in identifying your legal successor who can take decisions about your online accounts. Otherwise, your beneficiaries will have to run around searching for passwords, filling up forms, submitting requests at various places and so on. Secondly, your families need to know about any outstanding bills you may have received via email or credit card program, or financial payments due to you.
A will outlining usernames and passwords for all accounts and detailing what you want to be done with your digital asset will make it easier for your beneficiaries to take the right actions. Also, it will allow your family to continue receiving the payments from your online investments, or even payment from your blog site!
You can take any of these three steps:
a- Explain to your family about all your online accounts and passwords
b- Write down all details in a diary and keep it where it can be easily found
c- Create a will outlining your wishes and specifications regarding your digital assets
The first two options call for sharing passwords beforehand, something that you may not be comfortable with. So, the third option is the best available. Go for it and your dear ones will bless you for your foresight.
Be proactive about your online presence
- There may be content on your accounts you would not want others to see- We may create or download content that we would like to keep private. The best thing to do is to regularly sanitize accounts and delete what you don’t want others to see.
- Inactive accounts and profiles are much in demand– cyber criminals want access to inactive accounts to create false IDs and fake profiles. They can also create problems for friends and families of the users.
While most of our generation limits themselves to a handful of social media accounts, below are a few handy guidelines to securing key social media accounts –
The social media giant allows you to appoint a legal heir who can either opt to memorialize the account or delete it permanently. They will not offer login information to the family though.
Just like Facebook, Instagram too offers the option of either getting an account deleted or memorialized, after they receive a valid request. They also pledge to take measures to protect the privacy of the deceased person by securing the account.
YouTube does not yet offer any facility for preserving or deleting content created by users. In fact, it regularly deletes inactive or dead accounts, which is quite understandable, given the huge volumes of uploads per minute.
It allows legal successors to place request for deactivation of the account. They will guide you through the process, which is similar to that of Facebook and Instagram.
The legal successors/family members need to approach them with certain information and fill out a form shared on their site. They will then close the account and remove the profile.
Sign into Google -> My Account -> Personal Info & Privacy -> Inactive Account Manager -> setup. Then add up to 10 trusted people who will be notified if you have been inactive for a specified period. You can leave them a last message and they can also download the data that you have chosen to share with them – like emails, passwords saved by Google, photos in Drive etc.
Or else, you can ask Google to delete your entire account after a certain amount of inactivity.
Microsoft including Outlook
Similarly, legal successors can inform Microsoft to close down the account and download any information you may have chosen to share with them.
So, you see if you leave everything written and registered in your will, your dear ones will have less to bother about. Also, it’s our duty as well, for this is the digital world and we are the digital natives. It is about time we start doing things right in cyberspace too so as to not leave behind a legacy of clutter, confusion and possible cybercrime.
Always keep your devices secured with advanced security tools like McAfee Total Protection so that cyber criminals don’t get to your data before your heirs do.
About the Author