Episode 20: Living Will for Your Digital Data

There were 5 exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization through 2003, but that much information is now created every two days.”

~ Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman at Google

Personal Online Data

 The shear amount of digital data is increasing, and how we want our digital legacy to be remembered is a question to think about.  It is important to think about what you want to happen and let your wishes be known. 

If you were to pass away today, would your family be able to access your digital data?

Social Media accounts, email accounts, online bank accounts, and any other type of online account has data about you. This data leaves a legacy.

Without proper preparation, your data may be lost to your family and friends.

What to do?

Each online company has different ways to handle information when someone has passed. Listed below are a few of the major online accounts to consider.

  • Google: You can use the Inactive Account Manager to choose what happens to your Google account when you stop using it. 
  • Apple: You can use the Digital Legacy program to name up to five Legacy Contacts who will have access to your iCloud account and have the Activation Lock removed from your devices. 
  • X (formerly called Twitter): You can request the deactivation of a deceased person’s account by filling out a form and providing proof of death. 
  • Instagram: You can request the memorialization or removal of a deceased person’s account by filling out a form and providing proof of death. 
  • LinkedIn: If you have the authority to act on behalf of a deceased member, you can request to memorialize or close the account. If you aren’t authorized to act on behalf of a deceased member, you can report them as deceased. Reporting a deceased member will result in the account being hidden. Once an account is hidden, the profile is no longer searchable or visible on LinkedIn; however, it is still available for memorialization or account closure by those authorized to act on behalf of the account.
  • PayPal: PayPal is only able to take instructions from the authorized executor or administrator of the deceased estate to close a PayPal account previously held by a deceased person.

Other types of accounts may work differently and you need to contact each company and determine what happens and prepare accordingly.

Protection from Fraud

Unfortunately, there are criminals out there that prey on the families of deceased individuals. They watch for notifications of death, and then contact the family with attempts to fraudulently receive money. Some even try to hijack a social media profile to access data from friends and family.

The legal system has not kept up with the technology changes. There are no federal laws which direct what is to happen to a persons online data or legacy. Yet the figures show those deceased individuals are increasingly targeted. 

There are state laws to give executors access. In  Idaho there is SB 1044 a law which dictates that executors may access e-mail accounts, social networks, blogs, and short messages (e.g. text messages) unless a will or court states otherwise. States that do not regulate digital assets include Texas, Kansas, Iowa, and Florida, among others. It is important to check the local laws in your area.

We encourage everyone to evaluate your digital data now and prepare for how you want your digital data to be handled. While it may be a long time before anyone needs to know the information it may also come suddenly.

Preparedness now reduces the anxiety and stress later.

Be Safe Out There!

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