Imagine that your mother becomes incapacitated at age 78 due to complications from a stroke. You aren’t able to access contact information from her phone or email account to reach her friends to update them on her conditions. You know Mom always kept notes and lists on her phone, but without her permission, PINs, or passwords, you have no way of viewing helpful and necessary information from her online calendar – like due dates for bills or appointments.
Why Create Legacy Contacts?
How can you ensure that your children will have the information they need if something like this happens to you? Choose legacy contacts for online accounts. This means your children and/or designated friends will be able to view and manage personal information if the unthinkable occurs.
You can create one or more legacy contacts (or “inactive account managers”) so they have permission to access your online data when you pass away or become medically incapacitated. In most circumstances, after entering an access code and/or uploading a death certificate or a signed letter from doctors indicating mental incapacitation, your legacy contacts can view and download your data.
How to Choose Legacy Contacts
The Internet Age has come with complications. However, more judges continue to rule that online accounts are property that can be passed down just like material possessions. Therefore, legacy contacts can become the managers or keepers of your digital data.
These links have specific instructions on how to set up your legacy contacts:
However, before choosing legacy contacts, consider:
Adding people you can truly trust.
Letting your contacts know that you’re entrusting them with your personal information if the unthinkable happens. They’ll probably get an email (with an access code) signifying that they’re now your legacy contact, but it’s best to make sure they’re up for this serious responsibility.
Controlling what your legacy contact can see. Usually, you can choose between allowing them to access apps, email accounts, social media accounts, downloads, and/or photos, etc.
It’s a great idea to keep reviewing your legacy contacts list. If you divorce or a legacy contact passes away, lists will need updating.
Social Media Accounts
Popular social media outlets like Twitter and Instagram allow legacy contacts or they offer ways to memorialize a deceased person’s account. Usually, you’ll indicate your legacy contacts under Settings – Passwords and Security. Each company has their own set of guidelines, but they’ve been working diligently over recent years to be more user-friendly for legacy contacts.
Make a Plan B (or C)
According to The Washington Post, “Consider a separate backup plan like sharing your passwords or access to a password manager, which can help them with accounts that don’t include legacy options or getting to data that isn’t designed to be passed on, like DRM (digital rights management) protected music and movies.” Legacy contact users may experience issues if they use different operating platforms than you (Apple versus Microsoft, for example) – especially if someone uses an outdated device or operating system. A legacy contact’s email may change or they may accidentally lose their access code.
Here are two more smart ways to ensure your legacy contacts are validated:
Print a list of your passwords/usernames and leave them with estate planning documents.
Add permissions in your will for legacy contacts (specifically which accounts and what data they can access).