Alistair Brightman

What happens to your digital footprint when you die?

I HAVE experienced plenty of death in my life, and last year was no exception. In the month of December, a beautiful young woman from our local business community, my aunty and an old friend all in the one month.

As morbid as it sounds, their deaths got me thinking - what happens to your digital footprint when you die? After all, these days, many people have one.

Whilst many people will write a will and bequeath items like their physical belongings, many will not consider the online "stuff", that is the social networks, our emails, our blogs, our websites and more which will continue to 'live' online, unless we arrange otherwise.

So out of curiosity I went looking in order to share this knowledge with you (who in turn I hope will share it with others).

There's a few things to give some consideration to, so your preferred method is honoured in your passing, which I hope is a very long time away!

So what items do you need to have a plan for?

Any accounts that you open online, including email, social networking, photo-sharing, as well as websites and domain names you own (some domains can be quite valuable!)

Essentially, it means any account with a unique user name and password combination. However, online financial accounts typically are considered "physical" assets that pass directly to your heirs.

Request your account to be memorialised on Facebook

It is Facebook's policy to memorialise the account of a deceased person. Should someone you know pass on, you can request for this process to be completed on this form on the Facebook site:

You will need a proof of death i.e. link (URL) to an obituary or news article.

You can also request to remove a loved one's account. This will completely remove the timeline and all associated content from Facebook, so no one can view it. However many people may find the memorialised Facebook profile a great thing to return to and reflect and remember the person that was. 

Write down your passwords and store them with your will

It sounds highly organised, but to save your next of kin and family some hassle, it's a good idea to write down all the networks you feature on (or create a Google Doc that you share with next of kin), along with your usernames and passwords. It should include your instructions to a trusted friend or family member in the advent that you were to pass on: for example, delete Facebook, shut down eBay, transfer a domain name, clear out Paypal account, give online photo files to a sibling, etc.

Gmail: If you need access to the Gmail account content of an individual who has passed away, in rare cases they may be able to provide the contents of the Gmail account to an authorised representative of the deceased person but sending a request or filing the required documentation does not guarantee that they will be able to assist you. More information:

LinkedIn: Linkedin can close a person's account and remove their profile on your behalf. To start this process, you will need to answer some questions about the person who has passed away via an online form. More here:

Twitter: In the event of the death of a Twitter user, they can work with a person authorized to act on the behalf of the estate or with a verified immediate family member of the deceased to have an account deactivated. More here:

YouTube: YouTube grants access to accounts of deceased persons under certain conditions. They warn that the application to obtain video content is a lengthy process with multiple waiting periods. Further, Google will not produce video content that is already publicly available. More:

Whilst passing on is not necessarily something we want to think about, think of the positive aspect of leaving those you loved with one less thing to worry about in a time of grief and mourning and get organised now!

Have you ever thought of what would happen to your digital footprint when you die? Do you have your digital assets documented and have you shared these with the executor of your will or next or kin? Has this article prompted you to think about this?



The Creative Collective director Yvette Adams.
The Creative Collective director Yvette Adams.


By Yvette Adams

T: @creativecollect



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