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Does your will include digital assets?

Sunday June 16 2019

social media

A woman accesses her Facebook account. Google, Facebook, Twitter and other sites have policies in place to deal with deceased users. PHOTO | COURTESY 

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Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple said, “Death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”

By 2100, demographers estimate that there will be more than 4.5 billion people dead, all of whom will have owned at least one social media account.

There is plenty of content each person curates on their digital space — treasured photos, videos, professional and business documents — all password protected. Some of these could be beneficial to those left behind.

What preparations are you putting in place to make sure that these treasures are accessible to those who need to access them after you are gone? How will your information be protected from misuse?

Let’s face it: with the ever increasing and sophisticated schemes for identity theft, it is possible that soon after one is dead, his or her information could be used fraudulently.

Of course there's also fear of exposing one’s online digital dark secrets to unsuspecting loved ones.



Google, Facebook, Twitter and other sites have policies in place to deal with deceased users.

Being aware of these options will help you decide how your online information will be treated when you log out permanently.

Google has a feature called “Inactive Account Manager”. This feature gives a Google account operator a way to notify up to 10 people if one has been inactive for a certain period of time.

It is some form of a digital will for the content you have stored with Google — Gmail, Google Drive, Photos, and YouTube — when the grim reaper comes calling.

Facebook and Instagram allow you to select a “legacy contact” option, essentially identifying the person who will take over your account after you die.

The legacy contact, however, cannot make any changes to the existing content on the account. They can only write a new post, respond to friend requests or update the profile photo.

They can’t see private messages sent by the deceased while alive.


But Twitter and Yahoo handle it differently: they do not grant access to an account to anyone after the owner is no longer available.

These two media companies will deactivate an account if contacted by a family member or a person authorised to act on behalf of an estate.

The person acting on behalf of the deceased must present Twitter with a death certificate as well as a "brief description of the details that provide evidence this account belongs to the deceased”.

Death is a taboo subject, especially in the African society; but as Steve Jobs said, “no one has ever escaped it”.

Don’t leave locked digital goods that would be treasured by others after you log out for the last time. As you draft your will for the earthly property, think about your wealth on the cloud too.

Mr Wambugu is an informatics specialist. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @samwambugu2