Protecting your online data, etc. after you die

Cell phone vs Smartphone

Cell phone vs Smartphone

By Catherine Haug, June 16, 2016 (image, right, from Tek Handy (2))

I saved an article from an old 2014 AARP magazine, and it just resurfaced in my pile of to-do things. I’d intended to pass on the information therein via a post on The EssentiaList, but you know how it goes with to-do lists when the pile gets too deep…

You can read the entire article by Carrie Arnold on the AARP website (1), but here’s a few highlights.

The article begins with this quote: “Ever worry about what happens to your online financial data, Facebook posts, iPod collection or other digital properties after your death? Here’s how to get a handle on it all.

Our lives are increasingly being lived and stored online. When you’re gone, how can your heirs gain access to all this digital stuff? Probate courts have addressed procedures to distribute physical items, but not much has been done to address digital online property.

Don’t fret, there’s a lot you can do about this now, before the unexpected happens.

  1. Financial data: Take an inventory of your accounts: write down all the websites you use in a week/month that require log-in information. This includes financial institutions such as banks and investment companies/advisors, but also online stores such as Amazon or iHerb where  they store your credit card information securely so you don’t have to enter it with each purchase. It also includes your personal websites/blogs.
  2. Record that inventory in a secure document, with each site’s name along with your log-in name and password.
  3. Do not put this information in your will as it is a public document. Instead, specify in the will the location of the list. For your personal website/blogs, create a list of login information and give it to a trusted friend or relative.
  4. Don’t forget to update the list each time you have to change passwords or login name, or add a new site to your regimen.
  5. Financial institutions: This includes banks, investment companies/advisors, insurance companies, etc.. Identify your beneficiaries directly on the websites of those institutions. If you don’t know how to do that, contact them for help.
  6. Email account(s): Read the account’s terms of service (TOS), as it includes information about what happens to your account when you die. Some email providers consider your account terminated upon your death. Most deny access to anyone but you after your death.
  7. Social media account(s): (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) As with email accounts, read the account’s terms of service (TOS). Some social media sites offer additional services; read the full article (1) for examples for Facebook and Google’s offerings.
  8. Personal websites, blogs, etc.: Make a list of the login and password information for  each site; give a copy to a trusted friend/relative.
  9. Personal computer, laptop, pad, smartphone, etc.: Make a list of the login and password information for  each device; give a copy to a trusted friend/relative and/or to the executor of your will.
  10. Music, e-books and more: When you download a song from iTunes or a book to your e-reader, you don’t actually own the time but rather you purchase a license to use the download during your lifetime. To learn more about specific services, read the TOS agreement
  11. Photo-sharing sites (Shutterfly and Flickr, for example): These have similar limitations, so if you want someone to be able to access your digital photos from those sites, download your favorites and save a copy to your hard drive.
  12. In your will: include specific about what should happen to your email accounts, blogs/websites and financial information upon your death.


  1. AARP Magazine, February-March 2014:
  2. Tek Handy:

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