Today’s seniors are more digitally connected than ever, with some estimating that as many as 34 % of Americans (65 and above) use social networking sites. From ordering food online to digitally transferring money, these apps have our personal and financial data stored online. It’s vital to take measures to secure personal data to ensure online safety every day – and beyond.
When my grandpa passed away in February, he didn’t leave a ‘will’ or any information related to his important documents or online investments and accounts. All we had was a book with a personal note to his grandkids. We had to undergo vigorous procedures to retrieve grandpa’s social media accounts and yet terms and conditions were roadblocks in our pursuit to find vital information. As a family, we faced a daunting task to get everything together – and here’s what we learned along the way about handling different digital legacies:
If you are aware of the email and password associated with the deceased:
1) Log in to their account and withdraw all funds by hitting ‘withdraw’ button.
2) Go to “My Settings” and then select “Account Type” -> “Close Account”-> Continue.
If you don’t have the required email and password,
1) If a ‘will’ exists, you need to send Paypal a copy of the ‘will’ along with executor details.
2) If there is no ‘will’, you have to send them a statement that states your relationship with the deceased, a government issued id card and death certificate.
If there are funds in the account, a check will be issued in the account holder’s name.
Credit Cards: You can collect the card and call the helpline number associated with the bank. The deceased’s name, social security number and the reason for canceling has to be provided. By canceling the credit card, you get to cancel all the online subscription payments associated with the credit card.
Facebook: You can either memorialize the account or request for deletion. Memorialization will keep the account active, but logging into the profile, add request facility and searchability is denied. It has the word “Remembering” next to the username. When it comes to placing a request for deletion, you have to provide death certificate along with your authority proof. You can go to Settings->security>legacy contact and then select account deletion.
Twitter: With Twitter, you need to fill a privacy form to report about the deceased. Death certificate along with your username and proof of relationship with the deceased has to be provided upon which the account gets deleted. The process is different from Facebook.
Instagram: It has the same memorization and deletion process as Facebook.
Google: You can use the Inactive Account Manager to control the fate of your account on the off chance anything happens to you. You can also request to either close the account of the deceased or obtain data. Google has the ultimate right to either provide you with access or deny you.
Linkedin: LinkedIn will close the account upon submitting the death certificate and showing previous employer details.
Pinterest: You can request for deactivation of the account with necessary proofs.
Similarly you can also close Ebay, Amazon,etc by contacting support and providing the necessary information.
What about Advance Planning?
Do you want your family to deal with strict and time consuming legal proceedings in order to get access to your accounts – while they are grieving? It was troublesome for us to retrieve all the documents and sort his digital legacy. Even to this day, we keep an eye on his mailbox and bank statements to see if there are any subscribed transactions that have to be canceled. To prevent similar confusion for your family, it’s smart to include your digital legacy in your advance planning. Here are a few ways to handle this:
-You can assign or hire a digital executor to look after your digital possessions along with instructions and credentials – but keep them updated if/when passwords change.
– Use a password manager that will store your passwords of the relatable digital accounts – and share that account info with your executor. Again, make sure to keep it updated!
-Explore online tools that can store all that information in one place and transfer it responsibly to the appointed nominees.
Whatever you choose, be smart and save everyone a lot of extra hassle at an already challenging time.
Surya Prakash Singh is the co-founder/co-CEO of yowill.life, a company dedicated to protect and transfer the digital and personal legacy of loved ones responsibly, inspired by our family incidents.