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What Happens to Your Online Stuff After You Die?

Estate planning, along with almost every other aspect of life, has changed significantly as online assets and digital properties have become more ingrained with our day-to-day lives.

How often do you go online every day? Do read emails on your cell phone or send text messages. Do you check on social media accounts, pay your bills, or do anything else over the Internet? How much of your time is taken up by what you do online? According to one recent study, the average person spends over eight hours every day on various electronic devices, almost all of them connected to the Internet.

All of that activity leaves behind information. Some of that information is more valuable than other kinds, but regardless of what you are doing, knowing what happens to all that information after you die is important. Today we’re going to take a brief look at what happens to your digital data after you die by focusing on a few examples.

Your Online Stuff: Google

To give you a better idea of what happens to your online information after you die, let’s start by taking a look at Google. Millions of Americans use multiple Google tools every day, ranging from Google Maps to Gmail and more. Whatever you use, all that data stays on Google’s computer servers. What happens to it after you die? In general, it stays there until your account is deactivated.

Google says that until your account is deactivated because of inactivity–something that usually happen after nine months of you not using your account–your information will stay on its computers. However, in some situations other people might be able to have some of your information removed. For example, if your estate representative wants to have an email removed from Google servers, that person can supply Google with the full header and content of the email along with a death certificate and Google will remove that information.

Your Online Stuff: Facebook

So what about social media accounts, such as Facebook? Who owns your information on those kinds of sites and what happens to it?

For Facebook, specifically, you are the only person who is authorized to access your data. However, Facebook recently adopted a new policy that allows you to name someone who will act as your representative in case you die, and who can delete or manage your data. This person, known as a legacy contact, can be anyone you like, but you have to choose that person through your Facebook account.

Your Other Online Details

When you’re dealing with online data and digital assets, it’s vital to remember that there are a confluence of factors at work. Not only are there company policies that apply, but there are also state and federal legal issues. Knowing what you can and cannot do with your digital assets as you create an estate plan is something that often takes a lot of time and investigation.


If you need help protecting your digital assets, contact The Law Offices of Cheryl David online or by calling 336-547-9999. Our experienced attorneys are here to help.

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