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"Genealogy Today", by Betty Lou Malesky, CG
From the Green Valley News, Sunday 2 March 2014, page C1

The Internet and Your Will

If you are like most of us today, you are into social media. You may have made a will and purchased a cemetery plot or made cremation arrangements, but have you considered the ramifications of some of the Websites you use for your heirs after you’re gone?

Today we don’t just have to deal with a deceased person’s real estate, beloved pets and prized possessions, we must consider their online presence. Passwords, for instance, are part of our legacy that can live on forever. Some may be of little consequence, but others used for online financial transactions and social media sites like Facebook should be available to heirs.

If all log-in information and passwords for online bill payment, banking and investment accounts are in one secure, easily accessible place your descendants will remember you kindly and be able to close out your physical presence in this virtual world much more easily. There are several ways to deal with passwords.

They can be kept in a list or notebook or even on the computer. Of course, this means they are accessible to anyone who stumbles on the list. Consider one of the several online password protection companies, also password protected. Their use means you just have one password to remember and pass forward. PasswordSafe and LastPass are two popular services that enable creation and retrieval of passwords.

If your heirs are going to need your assets to pay for your final expenses, and they are not co-signers on your accounts, you need to advise them as to where your banking passwords are located so they can access your funds.

In addition to financial assets, you may want to consider your virtual assets. What about the digital photographs you have stored online, your email accounts, and the contents of your Facebook account? After your death, your executor or spokesperson must be able to exercise his authority to contact Facebook and any other social media sites you use requesting contents of the account as part of the administration of your estate.

Do you want someone to advise your online acquaintances of your passing? Your administrator will need a list of those persons and their email addresses. To make his job easier, leave instructions for him. Today it’s not enough to have your emotional and financial issues in order; you also need to have your Internet house in order.

To emphasize how important this subject is, obtain a copy of Your Digital Afterlife: When Facebook, Flicker and Twitter Are Your Estate, What's Your Legacy? (Voices That Matter) by Evan Carroll and John Romano. The book is available in paperback for $19.79 or on Kindle for $12, both at It discusses the legal, cultural, and technical issues that could prevent access to your online assets and the steps you need to take to make your digital legacy available to your heirs.

If you have elderly parents who are computer literate, consider the issues raised here and discuss them together. The computer is so much a part of life today it’s easy to overlook the confusion that could ensue if our virtual world is inaccessible. None of us like thinking about our demise, but it is unfortunately inevitable. Let’s do what we can to make our passing easier on our descendants. They will be forever grateful.

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