Friday, February 21, 2020

Protecting Digital Accounts After Death

by Barbara Latta @BarbaraLatta

Anyone who has a Facebook profile more than likely has at some time had a person clone you and send out friend requests to people you are already friends with. Most people are wise to this now because it happens so frequently, but some unsuspecting Facebook members still click to add the friend and then the fake user starts sending out pleas for help as if they are stranded in another country and they need you, their dear friend, to send money. 

I have also received friend requests from people who have passed away. This made me think about what happens to these accounts when someone dies. How do we protect digital accounts after the death of a loved one? How do we know what other records they may have that need to be closed or obtained? I have a friend whose husband changed the password on their computer and then he died. He failed to write down what the new password was, and she was not able to sign on to the device. Any documents not saved on an external drive were lost. 

Since these inventories are not physical, it is easy to forget about them. We don’t have digital membership cards which remind someone else of our online activity. Because many of us have credit card information stored on websites, a skilled hacker could go online and continue shopping without anyone’s knowledge unless a relative or executor is authorized to access the information. 

Hackers are prevalent and sometimes use the newspaper to peruse obituaries. These biographies of deceased persons will contain their full name, date and place of birth and in the case of women, their maiden names. An industrious thief can open accounts in the name of people who have died, and no one is the wiser unless a relative is checking credit reporting sites.

Most of us make wills for our physical possessions so they can be passed down to our beneficiaries, but have you ever considered making a will for digital records? This is something that could be discussed with an attorney and possibly made as a separate will or a document that can be referenced in the will.

Some things to consider would be:
  • Computer password.
  • Email password
  • Cell phone password
  • Any kind of subscription such as Amazon Prime, Roku, Netflix, etc. 
  • Online banking
  • Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
  • Frequent flyer miles 
  • PayPal or Apple ID
  • Online stock trading 
  • Credit reporting sites
  • Shopping websites

Each web address should have guidelines for admittance or closing the username for a deceased person. Reading these before proceeding with any activity can make sure everything is done in a legal manner.

Our list of online activity can grow each year, so it would be a good idea to evaluate our digital possessions and update any recorded information as it changes. If we make this a regular occurrence, we will be more likely to have updated information for whoever we are assigning as an executor or beneficiary. 

In the technological age we live in, our property has changed. Protecting it also means protecting beneficiaries after we are gone. Our digital footprint shouldn’t be left behind for hackers. 

What other advice do you have for protecting online assets?


Barbara Latta is the author of God’s Maps, Stories of Inspiration and Direction for Motorcycle Writers and has contributed to several anthologies and written for online devotion and article sites. Her latest contribution is to The Power to Make a Difference published by Lighthouse Bible Studies. She also writes a monthly column in her local newspaper, The Pike Journal-Reporter, and is President of the Madison, Georgia Word Weavers chapter.  

Barbara works as a paralegal and loves to travel, garden, snap photos and ride with her husband on his motorcycle. She is studying through Charis Bible College to help her attain a deeper understanding of the scriptures and is working to begin a teaching and speaking ministry. She is currently a member of Toastmasters International. 

Her desire is to share the truths she has learned through the Word of God to help those in bondage to negative emotions become free and have an intimate relationship with our heavenly Father. Her blog can be found at You can also connect with Barbara on Twitter @barbaralatta and follow her on Facebook.


  1. Perhaps an area of estate planning that is often overlooked. Great thoughts Ms. Barb. Thank you ma'am; and God's blessings.

    1. Yes, these things are easy to overlook. Thanks, J.D. and blessings to you!

  2. Great ideas! I keep a hard copy of a spreadsheet with my digital accounts and login information. I need to make sure that my executor knows where it is. Thank you for the reminder.

    1. A spreadsheet would be an easy way to keep up with that information. Thanks for that tip, Lisa. Blessings!

  3. Great advice Barbara. I’d never thought of this