Your Digital Afterlife: Password Management Beyond the Grave

Screenshot-642x455Most people do not print photos anymore, or bank statements, or much of anything, really. If you were to pass away suddenly, would anyone in your life know how to access the digital equivalent of the dusty scrapbooks and filing cabinets of yesteryear? That morbid question begins to surface more and more in our society as people contemplate their now-paperless lifestyles.

Digital Things Are Valuable Too

Now that we do not print or write as many thoughts or images from our lives in journals and scrapbooks, we may not realize the value of our digital possessions. Something as abstract as a digital image on your Facebook account may not seem to be of great worth, but if you were to suddenly pass away, your survivors would value the content on your social media sites very highly, perhaps especially online photo storage sites like Picasa where joint memories are preserved.

Email accounts can offer wonderful chronological records of anyone’s life and family members may want to access your Yahoo, Google and other accounts. Many email services automatically terminate accounts after a few months of inactivity, and your family members may or may not be able to gain access, even with all of the required paperwork.
On the more practical side, there are checking accounts, credit card accounts and all sorts of other secure password-protected sites you use every day that your family will need to be able to access when you pass on.

What Can Be Done To Protect Them

Every password-protected site handles your data differently when you depart. Here are some things to consider in planning for your digital afterlife:

  • Google’s Inactive Account Manager allows you to predetermine much of what will happen with the contents of your Gmail account if you stop using it. If you stop signing in, Google will send a message to someone you trust (designated by you), who will be able to access photos and messages you designate after a period of time you determine.
  • Using a password-management application simplifies your life in so many ways, but it can complicate your afterlife if you are not careful. You must tell someone your master password if you want them to see the content on sites you use your online password manager to access. PasswordBox stands out among the best password managers we reviewed for its Legacy Vault feature. You can designate a digital heir who will be given your secure password and access to all of your sites after verification of a death certificate.
  • Some people still opt for physical storage – making a physical list of all their usernames and passwords and storing them somewhere safe. You would need to tell your loved ones of your plan in advance for this to be effective, though.
  • You can put your passwords in your will, but it is worth noting that wills eventually become public record by law. That could leave an opportunity for criminals to access your accounts.
  • If you are looking to keep in touch from beyond the grave, there are some truly bizarre options. Twitter’s _LivesOn feature, complete with the motto: “When your heart stops beating, you’ll keep tweeting,” will make it seem as though you are still sending out tweets after you are gone. Similarly, the if i die Facebook app allows you to record a message that will be published in various multimedia platforms posthumously.
  • Your iTunes collection is comprised of materials licensed to one person to use – you – so your family will most likely not be able to access those songs and movies when you go.

There isn’t one simple solution to handling your digital assets after death, but a little planning now might save your loved ones some time and trouble. You will not be around to see the effects of your planning or lack of planning regarding your digital possessions, but if you want to save your family additional stress after you die, it is at least worth some thought.



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