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Disposing Your Online Assets

Have you ever wondered what you should do with your digital “remains” after you die? According to an article in the March 2010 issue of Wired (see here), there are at least three companies that “keep customers’ passwords, usernames, final messages, and so on in a virtual safe-deposit box. After you’re gone, these companies carry out last wishes, alert friends, give account access to various designated beneficiaries, and generally parse out and pass on your online assets. Digital remains that are not bequeathed to an inheritor are incinerated, closing the book on PayPal accounts, profiles, even alternate identities (especially alternate identities: You don’t want your mother knowing about, or worse, playing, the wife-swapping giant badger you became in Second Life).”

What if you are not quite ready to hire one of these companies to dispose of your online “assets”? It is still critical that you keep a list of all of your online accounts, as well as the login names and passwords, and update this list every year. If you bank online, use online stock brokers, or if you conduct other business online – maybe through eBay or PayPal – your executor or successor trustee will need to close those accounts and distribute any remaining funds. Leaving a list with this important information will make his or her task much easier. Your loved ones may also want to retrieve contacts from your email account, preserve photos from your online photo library, or post a final entry onto your blog.