Protecting your digital afterlife: What do to when a loved one dies

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — When you lost a loved one unexpectedly, one of the hardest things to do is working out their estate.

You may not realize with so many accounts and passwords online, it can be even harder, especially in Ohio.

Doing everything online has made accounts easier to use and manage but even easier to forget about.

One man from Central Ohio says when his brother passed away he was left with more work than he thought he would, and he wants to prevent the same stress from happening to someone else.

“Most of us aren’t thinking about preserving our digital lives or protecting those,” said Mike Kessler.

Kessler lost his brother eight years ago and like so many others, was faced with an uphill battle of personal information. 

“We went down there to use his computer and all of his passwords were on little slips of paper. None of them seem to correspond to getting into his computer or getting into websites he was part of, or his email.”

For Kessler and his family, sorting out the information wasn’t easy. In fact, it was nearly impossible. 

“It was really difficult when we were grieving over an unexpected death to try and figure out his, not just his finances, but his social life as well.”

AARP Social Media Expert, Valerie Disalvio, says as far as Facebook goes, you should set up a legacy contact as soon as possible. 

“Its never too early to have conversations with your family and love ones to let them know what their options are, or your parents, and let them know what they can do to be prepared,” said Disalvio. 

Setting up a legacy contact is easy to do — you can either choose for your page to be memorialized or have it deleted entirely.

For families like Kessler, there was no quick fix and some of his brothers online life was never sorted out.  

“His e-mails perished when he perished,” said Kessler

Eight years later and Kessler has become an expert and advocate. He volunteers with AARP and is constantly researching ways to protect people from fraud and to help prepare them for the future.

He says in some cases, lawyers have to get involved and just sorting out where someone’s money is, can cost your family a lot of it.

In Ohio, there are no laws governing the digital afterlife. It is why Kessler is now an expert and advocates for people to get prepared.  

“I wouldn’t want to do that for my children so that is why we have ours organized. It is in several places the executor of our will has a copy of the information.”

Kessler says get an attorney now to map out your online wishes. You should make a list of passwords, store it somewhere safe where at least one person can access it, and don’t forget to give someone the answers to security questions. “What was your first car? Your spouse may not know that. Your children may not know that.”

If you thought staying offline was the safest option, then think again.“There are people out there if you don’t have online accounts and you die, they may try to set up online accounts for them to begin collecting whatever you have.”

While the solution may not seem simple, it will make a family in mourning have one less thing to worry about.For more information go to https://www.aarp.org/content/aarp/en/home/states/oh.html to find an easy form to help track your online life.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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