Dealing With Your Digital Legacy

Editor’s Note: The overwhelming growth of internet use and social media has made it clear how we need to think about conventional matters in new ways. One of these subjects is making your will. While traditional wills left physical objects to loved ones, or specified what should be done with those objects, digital wills deal with the text, photos, videos and music we have put on the Internet.  They can be just as important a part of our legacy as more conventional possessions, and should be treated as such. But failure to specify what should happen to our Internet content can lead to confusion and frustration for survivors. Here, Judith Bitterli, Chief Marketing Officer of AVG Technologies, a global leader in Internet and privacy software, writes about the basics of “digital wills” and how AVG’s free e-book can help you:

Because people don’t like to think or talk about mortality, and consider tweets and texts and the online world ephemeral and intangible, they naturally don’t consider their online presence living after them. But it does and will, for the 1.23 billion of us who are on Facebook alone.

What happens to our digital afterlives is becoming an increasingly urgent philosophical debate. How do you want to manage your digital footprint – the collection of memories that encapsulates you – after you’re gone? And what if you’re unexpectedly left to do the same for a loved one? Where do you even begin?

Like everything else in the digital world, policies and procedures and regulations usually happen after the fact. And all too often, as in the real world, so does digital estate planning. A 2012 survey by online legal service Rocket Lawyer serves as a wake-up call for Boomers in particular. It found that 41% of Baby Boomers aged 55-64 do not have a will, let alone a digital one. It also found 63% did not know what would happen to their digital assets if they die.

To start people thinking about tackling these issues, take a look at AVG Technologies’ free ebook, Dealing with Digital Death.  It offers in-depth recommendations, resources and guidance, as well as information on digital estate planning and how to delete retail accounts.

Here are some of the book’s main points:

Make a will!  If you already have one, add a digital codicil, which is a simple document that amends your will, to include digital estate planning. You can also write a separate digital will – a template from is available here.

Write down a list of your digital assets, passwords and avatars. Include all your accounts, both financial and social, such as Facebook, PayPal, Twitter, Instagram, ebay, etsy and Amazon. It’s especially important to resolve these issues if your loved one was an active seller on, say, ebay, and may have some outstanding transactions.

Each site’s customer service department can tell your executor how to deactivate an account after death. Unfortunately, there’s no uniform way to do this, and the same is true for blogs and personal websites.

It’s tempting to think, “Who cares what happens to my digital presence after I’m gone?” But keep in mind those left behind, who might find such reminders a painful or even frustrating challenge to contend with. If you make it clear what you want, you’ll give yourself and your survivors peace of mind.

For the free e-book, Dealing with Digital Death, click here.

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