4 suggestions for preserving your digital assets for your heirs after you die

What will happen to your online profiles and data when you die? Before you answer that your digital stuff isn’t all that important so who cares, consider what you are using the digital cloud for:

  1. Email that increasingly includes bank statements, insurance policy information and functions as a backup for when you forget your password for your online profiles;
  2. Document storage and backups for all those policy documents, scans of your ID and passport, accounting records and tax returns;
  3. Photos and videos of your family going back years, decades even (have you maintained your print photos and offline video files to the same extent?);
  4. Various social profiles which you use to keep in touch with friends and family on a daily basis.

The cloud is more than just an incidental part of your life. Unless you are a committed paper-based archivist, you probably have more and more of your life recorded in bits stored on servers around the world and you are likely the only person who can access that data. When the time comes for you to leave this life your family will need to access that data for various reasons and, short of a séance, you won’t be in a position to pass along your access credentials if you don’t plan ahead.

Here are 4 suggestions for how you can do to make sure your family can access your digital assets after you pass on:

  1. Use a password manager like LastPass or 1Password to store all your passwords and key information (I use LastPass and it enables me to store credit card information, ID and passport information and a variety of other sensitive data securely) and use a strong master password to secure your password manager profile (while you’re at it, change your passwords to unique and more secure passwords to protect your profiles better).
  2. Tell your family about your online profiles and how to access them in your will or in a document you leave with your will. If you use a password manager, share the master password with trusted family members or friends so they can unlock your digital assets when the time comes.
  3. Backup your data regularly and automatically. Don’t rely on manual backups. Automate them. Use whichever secure and reliable backup service you prefer (popular options include Dropbox, Google Drive and more) but make sure they include your important stuff and work properly. Storage is becoming cheaper all the time so you should have plenty of space for all your stuff.
  4. Organise your digital archives so they can be easily searched and key documents located by your heirs. One of the first things your family will need to do when you die is report your estate to the relevant authorities and they will need key information to do that. Check with your attorney what they will need and collate that information for them in a convenient folder or location and share that with your family ahead of time.
  5. Make sure you identify all your key online services to your family and explain to them how to access them and your data. Don’t assume that everyone knows the services you use and how to use them effectively. They may not share your passion for those services but you probably don’t want to add to their aggravation by forcing them to stumble around unfamiliar services while grieving for you.

Image credit: ‘Til Death Do Us Part by [n|ck], licensed CC BY 2.0

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