Illness or death often change life abruptly and unexpectedly. Nowadays, in an emergency, a digital legacy is created that relatives have to take care of. But what actually happens to the data of people who become seriously ill or even die?

Much of our life now takes place in the digital space: We use social media to exchange ideas with other people, organize our work via e-mail and messagers, and save photos and other documents on online platforms and in cloud services.

In order to protect our data, we are often the only ones who have access to all these areas. But what happens if one day we are no longer able to take care of our digital life ourselves?

Digital legacy: What happens to our data in the event of death or illness?

Many people face this problem when their loved ones are struck by illness or death. Because those affected often do not care in advance what will happen to their data in an emergency. As the consumer advice center reports, all transmitted and stored data remain with the respective provider even after death.

The advice center therefore recommends organizing the digital legacy in good time so that other people can access our profiles and accounts if we are no longer able to do so ourselves. “In concrete terms, for example, a disposition on the digital legacy can specify whether a memorial status should be set up in a social network or the profile should be deleted,” says the consumer organization.

Relatives must be given power of attorney

It therefore makes sense to entrust a trusted person with all tasks related to digital pension provision. A list of all user accounts and passwords, which is stored in a safe place, is particularly advisable.

In addition, everyone should specify exactly what should happen to the individual accounts – for example, whether a social network is given a memorial status or whether the profile is deleted. In order for relatives to be able to act, a corresponding power of attorney is required, which also applies “after death”. It must be dated and signed.

Digital legacy: This is how you regulate the handling of your data

The consumer advice center gives various tips for managing your digital estate. First of all, it is particularly important that you early for your estate take care.

In order to safely pass on your data to the appropriate heirs, you should use the aforementioned Overview of all accounts with user data and passwords. You can do this with a digital password manager, for example. In addition, you should determine in which case and in what way your estate should be dealt with.

Alternatively, you can print out the list or save it on a USB stick. However, you should remember not to encrypt the medium with a password. It is also recommended that you keep your summary in a safe or bank deposit box. It is also important to keep the account listing up to date.

In addition, you must have a person you trust as your authorized representative determine. she is yours digital estate manager and receives authority over your digital heritage. In this decree, you also specify that the person may still act during your lifetime – for example, if you are in a coma or are unable to make your own decisions for other reasons.

Consumer center advises against commercial estate administrators

There are companies that offer commercial management of the digital legacy. “However, the security of such providers is difficult to assess. If you are considering hiring a commercial estate administrator, inquire about the scope of services and the costs,” said the consumer advice center.

In addition, the organization advises a company never to entrust passwords and other access data. Computers, smartphones or tablets should also not be passed on to commercial providers. Personal data can quickly reach unauthorized persons.

Customize account settings

Some services allow you to choose what happens to your account after death. For example, you can take appropriate precautions in the settings of Google and Facebook. In both cases you have to log in. Then you can designate another person who can access your accounts after your death.

This can be very extensive, especially with Google, because the accounts include photos, calendars, YouTube videos, payment information, smartphone settings and much more, depending on usage.

Digital estate: consumer center provides lists for download

To help you regulate your digital estate, the consumer advice center provides a sample power of attorney. You can easily download and customize them. With the document you can regulate the handling of your data and profiles on the net.

There is also a sample list that will help you create an overview of your accounts for your trusted person. The list is not complete, however, and serves only as an example. You can therefore expand and update them as you wish.

Last but not least, there is a checklist that provides an overview of what you should look out for when it comes to online providers of digital inheritance. With these tools, you should be able to organize your digital heritage.

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