Frequently Asked Questions

"What can I do to protect my information online after I die?"

Having a document that outlines what you want to have happen to your information when you die is one of the best ways that you can make your 'digital directive' known.

 

1. If you already have a trust or a will, make sure that it includes directions for who you want to appoint as the custodian for your online accounts, and where they can find the accounts you want them to manage.

 

2. Familiarize yourself with the policies of the various platforms that you use, so that you can set up directives with the individual platforms if they offer a feature to do so. For example, Facebook allows you to choose a Legacy Contact who can act as a steward on your behalf after you pass away, and you can set an Inactive Account Manager for your Google account.

Select a Legacy Contact on Facebook

Choose an Inactive Account Manager for Google Accounts


 

"What about my passwords?"

In most cases, the easiest way to grant a trusted person access to your online data is to entrust them with the account information. However, in many cases, this violates the platform's terms of service and it may open you up to additional risk. Some password managers (programs such as LastPass that help you track passwords) will allow you to set a different password for one-time-use access, or to designate a contact who can access your passwords after you die. You may prefer to leave a record in some other manner, but it's important to know that without leaving this information to someone, they may not be able to access your accounts without a court order.

"Why should I care about my digital information? Does it matter?"

Posthumous identity theft impacts more than 800,000 Americans each year. Locking down your accounts is one of our 5 recommended steps. Besides property and money, you may also have photos, videos, documents, and more online. For many people, gaining access to photos, videos, documents, status updates, emails, and messages that a loved one has left behind is an important part of the remembering and grieving process.
 

"A loved one of mine passed away. How can I manage their digital estate?"

We're sorry for your loss. We've found that this list of resources provided by Everplans has the best overview for how you can begin to resolve online accounts:

https://www.everplans.com/articles/how-to-close-online-accounts-and-services-when-someone-dies

© 2020 The Digital Afterlife Project

This project was created and incubated at the Aspen Institute Tech Policy Hub