Handling personal information and digital content after death
This article has tips on planning ahead for control of one’s personal information and digital content after death.
- technology has progressed faster than the laws
- make sure your estate remains protected by privacy laws
- because we are in a gray area right now
Planning for control of your personal information after you die used to be as simple as telling someone about the desk drawer or the fireproof box or the safe deposit box at the local bank.
But in the era of smartphones and cloud computing services, that same stuff may be stored in digital formats on servers scattered across the globe. You may keep documents online or use email as a catchall for paperless receipts, insurance information or financial transactions. And don’t forget the photos, videos and musings left behind at social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Flickr.
So how do you make sure all that information — protected by who knows how many passwords — is handled the way you would like after you’re gone? Two words: Plan ahead.
Providers that store digital content are restricted in how they can disclose it to someone other than the account holder. Much of it is protected by privacy laws. And terms of service agreements for things like free email may prevent companies from disclosing that material to anyone without a court order.
“We are in a gray area right now where the technology has progressed faster than the laws,” said Laura E. Hoexter, an estate-planning lawyer at the law firm Helsell Fetterman in Seattle.