digital assetsWhile it will sound terrible to be talking about tragedy, especially of a young person, I bring this story up to teach an important lesson. Miller, in his BBC article “Death in the digital age: Are you prepared?” brought to life the story of Eric Rash who committed suicide in 2011.

His family’s quest to find answers about what would cause him to do something like this, led them the need to get into his Facebook account. However they were not able to log in because they did not know his password. After requesting access from Facebook, they were denied. They were told it was against their privacy policy.

Even though this occurred a few years ago, the law is still unclear and not standard. At least Facebook allows someone to define if they want their account to be memorialized and who should be the new owner of the account. Other social media companies are also following suit.

In a more timely account, Prokop discusses “When death comes, survivors cope with digital afterlife,” in her article on Columbian.com. In this example Leisha Till, 40 years old, suddenly succumbed to death from a brain aneurysm. According to the story, she had many online accounts including social media accounts. In this case her computer was already logged in to her email and Facebook accounts, but there were many other accounts where Larry, her husband was left to sort out.

Could this happen in your family?

We don’t often think about our online accounts as something we need to leave to someone in a will but this is becoming more and more common; a digital will or sometimes called a digital estate. In doing so, should some emergency occur, the estate will have access to your accounts, user ids, passwords, secret codes and anything else needed to log in and take care of your wishes with each account. They will be able to save your digital photos, close any accounts or even pay your bills in a non-life threatening event.

Can you imagine yourself in any of these situations? Probably not. No one really ever sees it coming. Prevent the hassle and problems from being left to your family. Document your online accounts so there is no question if the time comes.

Protect your family and yourself by being prepared in case the worst happens.

Click here to use my brand new workbook, Document Your Digital Footprint, to help you navigate the process.