Privacy of Your Digital Data After Death

I have previously written about a person’s ‘digital afterlife’. Visit my website and go the archives of digital inheritance, digital executor and digital legacy for those articles.

There is an ever-increasing volume of information that is retained in digital format within a person’s online accounts and the amount of that personal data is increasing exponentially. This goes far beyond our email and gmail accounts.  There are records of personal telephone contacts; bank account information/transactions and other financial accounts like stock trading accounts; shopping accounts; postings; bitcoin accounts; online searches and a myriad of other data that lives on after a person’s death.

Legislation is being developed to give direction of what can and should happen to a person’s digital accounts, particularly those accounts that have a monetary value. But, legislation is lagging behind both the technology and the shear amount of digital data to be explored.

The question is how to balance privacy with the need of beneficiaries (and those handling a deceased person’s estate) to know what is important in the mixed bag  of digital data.

When developing an estate plan, the importance of the digital hereafter is taking an increased role. Who do you want to have access to the digital information and how much of that information will you allow access?  How comfortable are you to have your digital accounts perused by a family member or professional executor?

According to our friends at The Digital Beyond: “An online directive assists in eliminating the feelings that can be associated with the handling of web accounts. A shocking number of people, 65%, state that there would a sense of violation should their family members have complete access to every aspect of their accounts.” *

On the positive side – this dialogue has provided incentive to people to think seriously about their digital legacy.

As the article queries: “Imagine, the idea of one person having complete access to every action you’ve ever performed online.”

* To read the entire article go to and reference the interesting article:  “Privacy Afterlife Preferences: The People Have Spoken” by Evan Carroll (August 15, 2016)

Factoid from The Digital Beyond – “972,000 U.S.Facebook users will die in 2016” (Read more on the digital beyond website.)

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About Attorney Barbara Ann Dalvano

Attorney in Denver, Colorado with extensive practice experience in the areas of Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Business Succession Planning, Probate, Contract Law.

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