It’s no secret that social media has become part of daily life. Social media keeps us connected to friends, family, and even public figures. People go online to play games with strangers and interact with the world. Even if you don’t, nearly everybody has email. But what happens to our online presence when we’re gone? Though we aren’t there to post updates, our accounts will still be active. People can still view our past photos, tag us in theirs, or mention us in passing. And sometimes there can be value in our online presence. Planning what happens to our digital assets and social media accounts is a new part of an estate plan.
There are some benefits to planning for your online presence:
Preserve Memories. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram save photographs of our lives, but privacy measures can make them hard to access. Making sure that your account is accessible can keep photos, videos, and conversations available for loved ones.
Manage Online Assets or Property. People keep money online like never before. One study showed that American consumers on average kept over $54,000 in digital assets, including entertainment and games. Purchases in online games can have real world value otherwise lost after your passing. Passing on your accounts and passwords can help your family use your virtual assets, cancel subscriptions, and even manage cryptocurrencies.
Decide How You Want to be Remembered. Some sites will let you turn a passed loved one’s account into a memorial where people can view photos and leave best wishes. Facebook and Instagram both have options to turn your media space into a memorial so friends and family can remember your life. You can even leave messages for your connections, who may not otherwise hear from you. Others may not want their online presence to linger. Whether for personal reasons or a concern for online security, making sure your accounts are deleted can be an important part of protecting your online legacy.
Whatever your reasons are, you can make it easy for your loved ones to follow your wishes for your online presence. Make sure you leave a list of your online assets, including usernames, passwords, and PIN numbers, to a named successor. Make sure you leave detailed instructions explaining how you want your successor to manage your online presence. If you don’t, your family may not know where to start, and could lose something valuable. Just like traditional estate planning, the more you do now to put things in order, the easier it will be for your family later.