No one likes to think of their last day on earth, but you have to face reality and understand that your time on this planet is limited. If you're reading this, you're one of the estimated 61% of people who have an online account in the form of social media, financial, or online bill pay. Have you ever wondered how your loved ones will access those accounts when you die? Have you struggled to access online information from someone who died? Sure you probably have a will or a set of instructions to access those accounts in the event of your demise, but account access changes as well as passwords could potentially leave your family members in the dark when it comes to logging into those accounts. What can you do? There are several things you and your family need to have in place to allow access to those accounts.
Having a pre-death plan is always the best course of action. Not only does it include access to online accounts, but you can also decide who gets which pieces of technology. Some of the things you can include in the plan are:
1. Use a password manager. Password managers are a great tool for keeping track of all of those passwords for all of your online accounts. All of them are cloud-based which means as long as you have the master password for the password manager, you can access it from anywhere in the world. This is especially handy if you have loved ones who live in cities far from you.
2. Start gathering family photos and store them in the cloud. When you or your loved ones die, everyone is going to want to get their hands on photos. In most instances, you will have to deal with old, decaying photo albums. There is a problem with photos being only stored on one smart device as well. To allow everyone in the family access to family photos, store them in a cloud account like Google Photos or Amazon Photos. This way, if you want to reminisce you just need access to the cloud account and you can view photos. It will be a task trying to scan and transfer all of those photos to the cloud, but it will be well worth it.
3. Set a plan for the distribution of devices. When you or your loved ones die, you should have a plan as to what to do with those devices that will no longer be used. Before you donate those devices, make sure you wipe them properly as to not allow strangers to get access to personal data.
Unfortunately, many of us get caught up in the day-to-day of life and the pre-death planning process never happens. If you have a loved one pass suddenly or if you're family is faced with how to get access to your online life, here are the steps they need to take.
1. Get the death certificate. When you reach out to online companies to try to get access to those accounts, a death certificate goes a long way to proving you aren't some scammer trying to illegally access some online account. It's sometimes a good idea to get multiple copies as some online companies won't accept photocopies.
2. A letter of testamentary may be helpful as well. In case you didn't know, letters of testamentary are court-issued documents that give you the legal authority to act as executor of a will. Most tech companies and financial institutions will want you to not only prove that the person is dead but also that you have a legal right to access their accounts.
3. Reach out to the company to find out what they need. All online companies have their own policy and procedures when it comes to dealing with accounts of deceased loved ones, especially financial institutions. For example, most social media companies don't have an 800 number that you can call to get help as your financial institutions have this option. In this era of cybercrime, it's important that you be patient when dealing with these companies.
4. Decide what to do with those social media accounts. Social media is part of our daily lives. However, when your loved one passes away, their social media accounts are often overlooked. When winding up the affairs of a deceased loved one, social media accounts should be considered. There are several things to consider such as whether to deactivate or memorialize the social media account where the account remains accessible for friends and family to gather and share memories of your deceased loved one.
Here is how to handle each account:
Pinterest: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the deceased user’s details, including their account username, the obituary of the deceased, and proof of your relationship to the deceased.
SnapChat: To have the account removed, complete this form.
YouTube: Visit this Google support page to submit a request. From here you can choose to either close the account, submit a request for funds, or obtain data from the account
Hopefully, this guide has given you some clarity on what to do in order to gain access to those accounts. If you want to avoid having to deal with this altogether, make sure to create a pre-death plan for your accounts. If you need further assistance, please reach out to me with any questions you might have. I am always happy to help!
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