Can Your Data Rest in Peace? Tips For Your Digital Afterlife

Social network homepages on a monitor screen.

Can your data rest in peace?

At a recent discussion on digital afterlife hosted by our Economic Development Authority (FCEDA), expert panelists concluded the answer is both complicated and in continued flux.

Rules for access to your digital estate vary widely, from your Facebook to Instagram accounts to the passwords to your financial records.

In addition, the rules are different by state. The Virginia General Assembly recently passed legislation (becomes effective July 1) regarding access to your digital assets after you are deceased.

Get Digital Access Legislation (effective 7/1)


What You Should Consider
  • If you pass away or are incapacitated, does someone have access to your passwords?
  • What do you want to happen to your social media accounts when you pass away?
  • Do you  want your online history, including photos and personal information, to be publicly available?  Or would you rather have everything deleted?
  • When you die, who do you want to oversee those decisions – a family member, a friend or a professional with power of attorney?


Important Steps You Can Take Now

Attorney Pantea F. Stevenson, a panelist at the FCEDA event, provides these suggestions:

  • Take an inventory of digital assets, including domain names, bank accounts, investments, photos and videos.
  • Understand the rules for your social media and digital accounts, such as Facebook, Google and LinkedIn, regarding access to data and what happens when notified of death.
  • Back up tangible media – consider storing photos in a separate library.
  • Consider a will or establish a revocable trust that includes your instructions regarding your digital assets.

The digital afterlife discussion is part of a FCEDA series leading up to Language and the Machine: Algorithms and the Future of Communication  on  Sept. 14 in Tysons.


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