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How to Handle Digital Assets of the Deceased

Bet you haven't thought about this lately.
How to Handle Digital Assets of the Deceased
Image credit: Cecilie_Arcurs | Getty Images
Guest Writer
Co-founder of YOWILL.LIFE
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

My grandfather, who was devoted to his daughters and grandchildren, left us abruptly earlier this year. It was one of the biggest and most tragic losses of my life. The day before his passing, I remember how he brushed my hair with his smile and gentle look. My heart sank looking at him in an idle motion.

As if losing him wasn't enough, we were dealt with another setback. My grandpa didn't have a will. His physical assets were divided evenly, but what about his digital legacy? We did not have access any digital accounts -- social media, bank accounts, credit cards, other financial credentials and so on. It was utterly chaotic for us.

Related: You Can Now Appoint Someone to Manage Your Facebook Account After You Die

Was it hard looking after his digital legacy without him? Absolutely. According to a recent report, more than 3 billion individuals use social media every day, and 70 percent of the population don't have their digital information stored to pass on to their next generation.

Let's check out on how you can close digital accounts of the deceased.

Credit cards.

Collect all cards, and contact the associated helpline numbers immediately. Confirm identity with the deceased's name, social security number and the reason you need to cancel the card. Upon canceling a credit card, you get to cancel all the online subscription payments associated with the credit card. One shot, many birds!

Paypal.

If you are aware of the email and password associated with the deceased:

  1. Log in to their account and withdraw all funds by hitting "Withdraw" button.
  2. Go to "My Settings," select "Account Type" followed by "Close Account" and continue.

If you don't have the required email and password credentials:

  1. If a will exists, you need to send them a copy of the will, along with executor details.
  2. If there is no will, you have to send them a letter that states your relationship with the deceased, a government issued ID card and death certificate.
  3. A check will be issued in account holder's name if there are any funds in the account.

Facebook.

If you are the assigned legacy contact, fill out this form and provide your name and email, along with the name of the deceased and the URL of their timeline. You have the option to delete or memorialize the account. In certain cases, you can opt for special requests with the help of a court order. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, Facebook has the sole right to decide on the fate of the account.

It is advisable to choose your legacy contacts so that they can dispose of your account as per your wishes. You can go to Settings > Security > Legacy Contact and then assign.

If you are not the assigned legacy contact, the fastest way to close an account is to provide a scanned copy of the death certificate. There are other documents you can provide if you cannot submit a death certificate.

Instagram.

Instagram has a similar process to Facebook. You can report the account of the deceased for memorialization. Fill out this form and provide proof of death. Keep in mind that you will not be provided with any login credentials of the deceased. Immediate family members can place a request for deletion of the account. You need to fill out this form.

Required documents:

  • Birth certificate of the deceased.
  • Death certificate of the deceased.
  • Proof of authority that you legally represent the deceased.

Related: New Delaware Law Determines Where Your Digital Assets Live After You Die

Twitter.

With Twitter, you need to fill a privacy form to report a death. A death certificate, along with your username and proof of relationship with the deceased, is mandatory to get the account gets deleted. 

Google.

Any family member or representative can reach out to Google to close the account, request funds from the deceased's account or to obtain data. You need to fill out a form so that support staff can contact us and verify your details. You will need the full name of the deceased, their email, your full name and email, your relationship with the deceased, date of death, country, pin code, scanned copy of your identity and a death certificate.

Microsoft.

This is a tricky one. Since it wasn't mentioned on their website, I had to contact their support team. The staff was friendly and provided me with a solution. After a year of inactivity, Microsoft will remove the account automatically.

Linkedin.

Linkedin has one of the best and respected ways to report a user’s demise. You will need to provide:

  • The user’s name
  • Their profile URL
  • Your relation to the deceased
  • Their email address linked to the account
  • Death and proof of death

Pinterest.

Email care@pinterest.com with the following information:

  • Your full name
  • The full name of the deceased
  • A link to the deceased user's  profile
  • Proof of their death along with documents supporting your relationship with them

Similarly, you can close eBay and Amazon by contacting support and providing necessary information.

Assign legacy contacts to look after your digital assets. You can responsibly sign off from this world without burdening your family members with strict legal proceedings to access your digital accounts. It was challenging for us to retrieve all of my grandfather's digital assets and erase them out. Even to this day, we keep an eye on his inbox and bank statements to see if there are any subscribed transactions that have to be canceled. Don't let this happen to you or your loved ones.

Collaboration and additional research -- Sparsha Mallipeddi

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