Avatars Beware – What Happens to Your Online Life When You Die?

November 18, 2009 Hull & Hull LLP Estate & Trust Tags: , , 0 Comments

I’m sure there are a few people who are holding out and refuse to join facebook, or some other virtual world.  Yet for the majority, checking online accounts is merely part of an everyday routine.  What happens when you are no longer around to check these accounts?  This may seem like a trivial factor when dealing with the loss of a loved one, but seeing posts on a facebook wall belonging to a recently deceased family member can be extremely painful.
In a recent episode of The National, our own Ian Hull articulated that an online presence is something which we increasingly need to consider when dealing with Estates.   This presence can cause difficulties for Estate Trustees.  Online accounts generally require passwords; passwords which are not necessarily shared with anyone.  In fact, recently, I signed up for an online account and was specifically instructed not to share my password.  Then the dreaded words appeared on the screen: ‘Please pick a question which will be provided to you in the event that we need to verify your identity.’  I had to pick and answer a question three times before my password could be set.  I’m not sure if the people closest to me would know the answers to those questions.  How could they, it took me a while to think of questions I was certain I would remember the answers to.  What would happen if my family had to access my accounts and I wasn’t there to help them? 
This issue was explored in a recent article in the New York Times.   The article suggests naming a digital executor to get around the problem of passwords.  I’ve yet to explore this personally, but it is certainly intriguing. This concept is new and how it will play out in estate planning, administration and litigation is yet to be seen.  I’m not sure I’m willing to give my passwords to a complete stranger at yet another website, but at the very least, I’ve reconsidered sharing some of my more obscure passwords with my family.  Something to think about. 
Until Tomorrow,

Nadia M. Harasymowycz – Click here for more information Nadia Harasymowycz.

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