Digital Life After Death

Facebook is a place for Diane Sloan to reminisce about the memories she’s shared with family and friends.

"She died of cancer. She was my mom’s best friend," Sloan said, pointing to her friend Violet Martin.

A handful of other life-long friends are no longer living, even though she can still access their posts and pictures. "My cousin, Mike Corr, his is still up.  And, my cousin Debbie Garner, her’s is still up," she said.

Facebook estimates profiles of dead people will outnumber the accounts of the living by 2065.  It’s a thought not lost on Sloan. "I find myself going to that page and sending birthday wishes even though I know they are deceased and they can’t see them," she said.

It’s also made her think about a concept many of you may not have even heard of: drafting a digital will.  A digital will allows users to name an executor to online accounts. The idea is to gain access easily to your profiles after you die so you don’t have to jump through legal hoops to take down or delete information that may otherwise remain on the world wide web forever.

That public profile can easily end up in the wrong hands, according to McCracken County Investigator Darrin Frommeyer.

"With technology today, criminals, they are finding unlimited ways to take advantage of people," Frommeyer said.

He claims digital ID theft is one of the most common forms of fraud, with many crooks overseas swiping pictures and other personal information. "Which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for law enforcement to even investigate," he told Local 6.

Estate planning attorney Paul Bradford believes knowing your rights could make all the difference in keeping you from becoming a victim. "That highlights the importance of a digital will or social media will," he said.

There are online websites that can walk you through the process of naming an executor of your online assets, which can range from social media, banking and email accounts. Bradford said even websites that may be of monetary worth like a YouTube channel should be considered in drafting a will.

"There are a lot of accounts, especially business-related websites or, say, maybe an eBay account, that’s actually valuable in dollars," Bradford cautioned.

If you plan to delete a loved one’s digital footprint, Bradford urges you to check with the company’s online terms of service. There is no nation-wide law protecting you. "Based on federal law, they are not necessarily required to turn over that if the terms of services don’t allow someone other than that user to access that," he said.

That is why Sloan is a believer in planning now before it’s too late. "Families should get together, and speak with each other, and decide what to do.  I would want something like that done for myself," she said.

If you would like to start drafting a digital will, click here

In our online polls, 47.8 percent of people said they manage more than 20 online accounts. Of poll takers, 71.4 percent say they have never even heard of a digital will, while 95.5 percent say they don’t have a digital will.

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