Managing your digital afterlife

WHAT happens to Facebook when you die? Most of our readers would be familiar with the concept of estate planning - most people understand you need to leave a will to ensure your assets are passed to appropriate beneficiaries when you shuffle off.

But many people fail to allow for their digital assets in a traditional will... and surprisingly, this is becoming a major hassle for families of the dearly departed.

So, what does happen to Facebook when you die? Or your email accounts, Twitter, YouTube or even your iTunes collection? Unless your family already has access to your online accounts, there will be significant delays in obtaining that access.

During that time, 'trolls' can attack the accounts, posting inappropriate messages which ultimately cause more grief and frustration as your family are unable to do anything.

As celebrities should know by now, once something is on the internet, it is extremely difficult to retrieve or even nullify. Sadly, the same is true for us mere mortals - and the rules of closing an account for a deceased person change depending on who you're dealing with.

Facebook requires a death certificate, Twitter would like a link to their public obituary just to make sure, and YouTube won't stop showing videos unless you have Power of Attorney.

It is far simpler if your family is able to access the account and take appropriate action as soon as possible. The easiest way to do this is by providing a current list of passwords and logins - but that is by no means easy! I would have hundreds of these, so I use an online library called LastPass that only requires one master password.

There are also online services purpose-designed for digital estate planning, which are gaining in popularity.

Now that you're thinking about estate planning, can I also add that I am shocked at the number of people who have not made adequate plans for their estate?

You don't have to have many assets to need a will, and if you've got ex-spouses, children or other dependents, you need to specify who gets what... even if there's not much 'what'.

This saves making the process even harder on those who are left behind - if your affairs are in order, your loved ones can grieve without any added stress.

A simple will is sufficient for most people.

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