As more of our lives exist online, the need to plan for an online legacy becomes vital.

Digital accounts—known in the legal world as assets—include online banking, photos, email and social media profiles. When family members or other executors don’t have access to the deceased’s digital assets, and no instructions are left behind, complications arise.

Grigar“If you die without a will, you’re leaving a mess for your family,” said Dene Grigar, director of Washington State University Vancouver’s Creative Media & Digital Culture Program.

The problem is that online users are not taking care of their digital afterlife. People need to make arrangements ahead of time for handling their digital assets, just like they would for their physical belongings.

Last year, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, outlining the process of handling someone’s digital assets upon their death or if they become incapacitated. A fiduciary is someone appointed to manage the property — now to include digital property — of another person.

“People can’t just do what they want with your stuff when you die. And they shouldn’t be able to in the virtual world either,” Grigar said.

Find out more

The Columbian