Personal Finance: What's Your Digital Legacy?
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Personal Finance: What’s Your Digital Legacy?

December 14, 2011

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While most people have embraced digital communication methods in their daily lives, many have not yet thought about what happens to their digital presence after they die. But that concern, according to a report from the Sacramento Bee, should be a top personal finance priority.

More and more incidents of bereaved families trying to close Facebook accounts or access the departed’s email are cropping up in the news. And despite such incidents, the court system has not yet completed sufficient case law to establish robust precedents for matters of digital succession.

Personal finance experts recommend listing all online accounts, especially those that involve financial interactions (such as PayPal, bank accounts, credit cards, and others) as part of ordinary wills and trusts. Depending on an individual’s financial goals and plans for bequeathing goods after death, recording usernames and passwords may be necessary.

For those who live much of their lives online (whether through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, or an online business), creating a separate section of a will to deal with matters of digital inheritance is often advised. A lawyer can help work out the details of what a will must have to pass legal muster, and can keep you abreast of rulings and laws on the relevant matters.

Digital Financial Protection Services

For those interested in providing their heirs with a one-stop solution to all digital accounts, a number of companies have sprung up in recent years. Two such companies, Legacy Locker and Entrustet, allow users to store account information online and assign a “digital executor” to handle their digital matters after death.

The Risk of Identity Theft

As with any personal finance move, though, those who wish to create a post-mortem plan for their digital presence should proceed with caution. A recent report on Credit.com noted that cyber crimes currently happen at a rate of 50,000 per hour – more than three times the number of babies born in the same time.

Before revealing your online passwords to any family member or submitting them to any online company, be sure to do some research and make sure your methods are secure. The last thing you’d want to do is up your chances of identity theft while trying to protect digital self.


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