Your Online Legacy

Recently a dear friend and client passed away. He knew his illness would take his life, but no one knew how quickly it would happen.

Stop and think how much of your life is online. In this day and age, this is a new area that requires consideration when you get your affairs in order.

If you have a website, would you want that website maintained? An artist may, a business owner may or may not. If you are a sole proprietor, the business may not survive you.

It may be prudent to have a list of all your online accounts and the email addresses and passwords associated with those accounts. These should be filed with your will or with your attorney. You might be surprised how many email addresses you have and how many online accounts you have.

Consider the following accounts:

  1. Email.  Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo!, AOL, webmail (associated with your website), or others. I recently received an email from Yahoo! telling me they had purged many inactive email accounts to make those addresses available to new subscribers.
  2. Social Media/Blogging.  Facebook, WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, MySpace, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, LiveJournal, Deviant Art, Twitter, StumbleUpon, 43 Things, CafeMom, Weebly, TypePad – the list goes on and on.
  3. Membership Sites.  Classmates.com, Ancestry.com, DropBox, Networking Websites, Dating Websites.
  4. Business Promotion sites.  Google Places, Manta, Yelp, BBB, Angie’s List, Business Registries, etc.
  5. Accounts associated with your website.  Website host, Domain Provider (GoDaddy.com, etc), Google Analytics, Askimet, etc.
  6. Photo/Video Hosting sites.  Photobucket, Picasa, Flickr, Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo, Shutterfly, etc.
  7. Ecommerce sites.  EBAY, ETSY, Dawanda, Artfire, Amazon, Shopping Cart sites (Volusion, Shopify), etc.
  8. Online Financial Accounts.  Banking, PayPal, Cell Phones, Investment Accounts, etc.  Handling of these accounts should definitely be a high priority in your will.

These are just the most common sites. Depending on your personal interests and/or your business, there may be others that are industry related.

Many social media sites have started to develop their own procedures for these situations. Here is a link to Google’s support page that discusses their Inactive Account Manager.  There is an app on Facebook called If I Die which allows you to record a message to be published upon your death and also allows you to specify trusted people that can report your death. Facebook’s default handling of your account is to memorialize it (which means keeping it active). There must be a verified request in order to delete an account.

Most all sites I checked have a procedure for how they handle an account of a deceased member. If you are concerned about any of these you may want to check each site’s individual policy or discuss this with your attorney or estate planner.

No one likes to think about these things. It is just another part of our extended selves we must consider when making our personal arrangements and decisions about the end of our lives. My family would have no idea what to do with all my online accounts, so I will make it a priority to handle these details now.

 

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