How to Protect Your Digital Identity and Assets After Death

As people continue to integrate the internet into more and more aspects of their lives, the greater the chance that they’ll live behind something of value online. Whether it be personal information or some form of actual currency, knowing how to properly handle your digital assets can make sure that your identity and legacy remain intact.

Here are some examples of how you can protect your identity and digital assets after death.

Social Networks and Public Information

Depending upon your privacy settings and what you’re willing to share online, your social networking profiles could be rife with useful information for for identity thieves. Things like your date of birth, mother’s maiden name, address, former employers, and anniversary dates can all be easily found and used by hackers to determine your passwords and break into financial or other valuable digital accounts. Thankfully, many social media companies have recognized this issue and have started taking steps to provide more options for folks looking to protect the information of their deceased loved ones. 

Both Facebook and Twitter have plans in place to work with whomever is representing the estate of the deceased in order to protect their privacy and legacy. Facebook even offers an option to memorialize the account, allowing friends and family members to continue visiting the page after the user has passed on. Removing the account of a deceased family member or friend however, typically requires a copy of the death certificate and evidence confirming the relative’s identity. As an added protection however, it might be worth your time to include login information to your social media accounts within your last will and testament along with details on how you’d like to be managed after your death. 

Credit Card Rewards Points

In most cases, rewards points aren’t considered to be the property of the program member and typically dissolve upon their death. American Airlines and Southwest, for example, terminate rewards miles upon the passing of the account holder. However, there are some occasions where miles can be transferred to an heir, although there may be a fee for this service. United Airlines for instance, does allow for reward miles to be transferred to heirs, providing they can be provided with proper documentation and a fee of $75.

Some credit card companies do offer guides on how to manage the accounts of deceased members, which will include information on the transferability of rewards points. American Express, for example, hosts a page explaining that rewards points off a deceased member can be moved to a new basic account or redeemed by the deceased’s estate. If you want to ensure neither you nor your loved one miss out on utilizing valuable rewards points, make sure to consult your specific program’s terms and conditions so you can plan accordingly. It might also be in your best interest to avoid stockpiling points and use them on a relatively frequent basis. 

Paypal and Online Lending Sites

Luckily, transferring ownership of a Paypal or digital lending account after death is pretty straightforward. When it comes to Paypal, executor’s just need to fax a cover sheet, a copy of the death certificate, a copy of their driver’s license (or other government issued I.D.), and some form of legal documentation identifying them as the executor of the will to Paypal’s compliance department. Within 1 to 2 days, Paypal will close the account and either mail a check of the remaining balance to the executor or transfer the balance to the deceased’s bank account. 

The process for taking ownership of an account on a P2P lending site like Prosper or Lending Club is essentially the same. In the event that the deceased was the lender, the executor should contact the lending client and provide them with proper documentation. Once the executor has been authorized, the site should be able to assist them in liquidating the deceased’s assets. However, if they had any outstanding debt on their account, the executor will once again have to send the service a copy of the death certificate. The debt would then be handled in a similar manner to outstanding credit card debt after death.

Providing you take the time to properly prepare your last will and testament to cover your wishes concerning online assets and social media profiles after your death, your digital posessions and integrity should remain intact. Were you ever in charge of a loved one’s social media profile or virutal assets after they had passed on? How did you handle the situation? Did you have any issues taking on ownership? Let us know in the comments!

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