Many of your online accounts -- from automatic bill payments to eBay
-- may remain active after you die, unless you take steps to ensure
they don't, says attorney Hillel Presser, author of "Financial
Self-Defense" (Revised Edition).
Automatic bill pay, for example,
can theoretically keep tapping your bank account long after you're
gone, or at least until your money is.
"It's important to make sure your online bank and shopping
accounts, even your social media, can be closed out, or that your
loved ones are authorized to access them," Presser says. "You may
ask, ‘Why would I care if I'm gone?' I can tell you from experience:
because it can create real headaches, and more heartache, for your
Bank and shopping accounts will be vulnerable to identity theft,
which would affect your estate if someone opens credit cards in your
name. You might have valuable intellectual property, like domain
names. Family may need access to your health records, particularly
if you died under questionable circumstances, he says.
There's also the sentimental stuff -- photos and emails -- that
your family may want as a remembrance of you, and the libraries of
music and e-books, which may represent a considerable investment on
"The problem is, even if you provide a family member with all of
your accounts, log-ins and passwords, they may not be legally
allowed to access them," Presser says. "In many cases, they may be
violating the accounts' terms of service or violating federal
privacy and computer fraud laws. Some states have laws governing
online materials, but they're different, and which of your accounts
are covered depends on where the provider is located."
What can you do to ensure your family isn't left with a virtual
nightmare after your death? Presser offers these tips:
. Obviously, your list will need to be securely
stored. Since you'll need to update it regularly as you add
accounts or change passwords, it will be easiest if you keep the
list on your computer in a password-protected folder. Some
versions of Windows allow you to create protected folders, but
you may need to get third-party software to do this, such as
freeAxCrypt. Remember to create a backup of your list, whether
it's on a jump drive or printed out on paper. Store the backup
in a secure place, such as a safe deposit box. Do not put
password information in your will, which is a public document.
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May 2013, Google became the first site to give users an option
for choosing what becomes of their content if they should become
debilitated or die. Under the profile button, click "Account,"
scroll down to "Account Management" and you'll find instructions
for "Control what happens to your account when you stop using
Google." You can select how long the account should be inactive
before your plans are set into motion and choose to whom you
want to offer content, such as YouTube videos, Gmail, Google+
posts, Blogger and Picasa Web albums, or whether it should
simply be deleted.
If you have a
Google account, set up the new inactive account manager
the simplest way to ensure your online life is taken care of is
to appoint a digital executor -- a tech-savvy person who will be
willing and able to carry out your wishes. Authorize the person
to access your inventory of log-in information and spell out
what you want done with each account, whether it's giving loved
ones or business partners access to it, or deleting it.
Appoint a digital executor
The digital world has grown and transformed so rapidly, the law
hasn't kept up, which makes managing your digital afterlife
challenging, Presser says.
"Until there are more consistent laws and procedures governing
this area, it's best to plan ahead, leave clear instructions and be
sure you have a list of accounts where your estate lawyer or a loved
one can find it and access it," he says. "It will make a world of
difference to your survivors."
About Hillel L. Presser, Esq., MBA:
Hillel L. Presser's firm, The Presser Law Firm, represents
individuals and businesses in establishing comprehensive asset
protection plans. Presser is a graduate of Syracuse University's
School of Management and Nova Southeastern University's law school.
He serves on Nova's President's Advisory Council and is a former
adjunct faculty member for law at Lynn University. Complimentary
copies of "Financial Self-Defense" are available through
[Text from file received from
News and Experts]