Including online accounts in your last will and testament seems laughable to some people. After all, they don’t seem important, do they? At least not in comparison with possessions like your house, your vehicles, your antique furniture, and other valuables.
But leaving out your “online assets” can cause hassles and even heartache for your heirs after your passing. Your online assets—whether they be pictures on your Facebook account, music in your iTunes library, or emails—can have sentimental and even monetary value.
Your family won’t be able to access these accounts, however, unless given express permission to do so (or unless they have your login information). Many online services like Facebook have strict privacy policies and will not give out usernames and passwords even to family members—leaving them unable to access beloved pictures of your last vacation or holiday together.
Your ability to transfer your digital assets “can depend on the company’s terms of service, copyright law and whether the file is encrypted in ways that limit the ability to freely copy and transfer it,” according to the Times. Some services, like Google Play, end the rights to the content after the death of the user, making it impossible to transfer to heirs.
In order to plan for what happens to your online accounts, The New York Times recommends the following:
- Make a list of your usernames and passwords for all important accounts that you would like to pass on. This might include Facebook, iTunes, Gmail, and others. You don’t have to include every account but only the ones that hold value. In addition, remember to keep this list private. Don’t put it in your will, because that becomes public record after your death. (And you wouldn’t want just anyone to be able to access your accounts.)
- Communicate your wishes regarding these assets to the executor of your will. This person should know what you want done and should know how to find the accounts.