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The Final Frontier: Naming a Data Executor for Digital Assets

Published August 18, 2017 by Brady Cobin Law Group, PLLC

When death is unexpected, not having a digital executor or a plan for digital assets can do a world of harm. One family learned this the hardest way possible.

When Karen Prangley’s father died after two severe strokes at age 62, the family was devastated, according to Fox 11 News in “Dealing with the loss of a loved one in the digital age.” The lack of a plan for his digital assets also led to the loss of the family business. The family business was tied to a Yahoo email account. In a month, the business fell apart.

It’s a word to the wise, and one the senior editor of CNET recommends: do more than just share your passwords. You need to create a plan for your digital inheritance.

Access each individual online service you use and look for the page on each one, where you can set up your legacy contact or your wishes for what should occur to your account and your information when you pass away.

Be sure to include your digital life expectations to your will, and as part of estate planning, name a Data Executor who has your permission to access your accounts. Give them the password information now or designate them as an authorized user on your online accounts. Here are the steps to take:

  • Establish a Data Executor in your will;
  • Designate your Data Executor as an authorized user on each of your social media and online accounts and/or give him or her access to your accounts now;
  • Name a legacy contact on each of your social media and online accounts; and
  • Provide directions in your will on how to handle your social media accounts, such as having the account removed or creating a memorial.

The major social media sites, like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, have information detailing how to do this on their sites.

When the Prangley family contacted Yahoo for help, the company held fast to its policy and refused to transfer any of the content in the account or provide access to the account. It’s a harsh lesson for a family and for a small business.

If you have any questions about how to plan for your digital assets, speak with an experienced estate planning attorney. Digital assets are now just as important as real property and need to be part of your estate plan.

Reference: Fox 11 News (West Palm Beach) (July 5, 2017) “Dealing with the loss of a loved one in the digital age.”

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