Are You Prepared to Handle the Digital Assets of Your Loved Ones After They Are Gone?

No one has made it out of this life alive.  That I am aware of.

Sometimes, while it is not comfortable, we know when a loved one is about to pass and sometimes we are able to prepare for it.

In other cases, you don’t know  it is going to happen and are completely unprepared.

In my case, I have some personal experience with this.  My brother was hit and killed by a car driven by a mass murderer fleeing from the police and I had to deal with this lack of preparation in spades.  My brother was a young guy (62) and he had not prepared for his untimely demise.

Assuming that you have to deal with this horrible situation of closing out the digital life of a loved one, here is some information.


Collect all of credit cards that you can find.  Depending on how close the loved one is, you may or may not know what cards exist.  You may have to check the mail for a month or three to see if there are credit card statements.  If there is no balance on the account you may not hear from the credit card company until the card is about to expire.  Once you have the cards, call the bank and cancel them.  You will have to prove who you are, most likely, provide a death certificate and evidence that you are the administrator of the deceased’s estate.  At that point you will be able to find out about balances and close the accounts.


Mail can be a challenge. IF you lose access to the mail, you will lose a lot of information.  Did the deceased have a post office box, either at the US Post Office or a private box service?  The Post Office will NOT send you a bill.  They will just cancel the box for non-payment.  Make sure that you keep paying that bill and checking that box.  If the deceased lived in another city you may need to forward the mail.  The Post Office will only do that for a limited time.  If the deceased had a spouse and someone is going to continue at the address, that makes things easier, but if not, you only have, at  most, a year and that is not as long a period of time as you might think.


Technically, this may be against the law, but if the deceased had online accounts and you know or guess the password or can successfully do a password reset (if you have access to the deceased’s phone and email), then you can impersonate that person.  More than likely most online providers won’t know or care that the person passed away.  BUT, beware, if they do find out they may lock the account with no advanced warning.  Get in quickly, get what you need and get out.


Paypal, like most online providers, has a process.  If you can log on then you can withdraw whatever funds are there, payable to the estate.  If you can’t log in, you will have to provide them with documentation – a will, letters testamentary or something similar, etc.  Consider that a significant pain, especially if the estate did not need to be probated otherwise.


Facebook has a process where someone can designate a legacy contact in which case you can tell Facebook how to handle the account, but they will not give you the ability to log on. You can only freeze the account or delete it.  I assume you will have to prove the person has passed away.  If there is no legacy designation then you will have to provide paperwork.


Instagram has a process similar to Facebook.


Twitter has a privacy form to report a death.  You have to provide the appropriate paperwork and then you can get the account deleted.


Like the above, they have a form and a process in order to make sure that you are doing things legally, but you can get data or close the account.


Microsoft says that the deceased’s account will be deleted after a year of inactivity.  Of course, that doesn’t give you access to any data.

The best way to handle this is to record your passwords and store them securely.  Some password manager software has an “on death” feature that allows you to gain access to the person’s password vault upon proving the person is deceased and you have been designated as the guardian of the passwords.

Check out the source article below for a few web site links.


I assume that companies will eventually contact you about past due bills if they plan to get paid, but I have seen some circumstances where they want to add late fees and legal fees for past due accounts.  To the degree that you can, figure out what bills might be due and reach out to the companies involved.


Delaware has passed comprehensive legislation forcing online providers to do the right thing.  In some cases, Delaware residents were denied access to spouse’s email due to privacy policies – that will no longer cut it in Delaware.  Check your state for specific laws.

Bottom line, plan if you can, but that is not always possible.  If not, it can be done, but it will definitely take some work.

Planning definitely makes things easier.

Information for this post came from Entrepreneur magazine.


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