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Protecting your digital assets: What happens after you die?

 Music and movies on your computer, messages in your email, even your online bank account: you can't take it with you when you leave this earth, so where does it all go? 

Turns out, in many cases. you have a say. 

\"Imagine who is going to fight over control, who can have access to that Facebook account when mom's gone, you know, if the children don't get along, I mean, who's going to make those decisions?\" said attorney Nate Johnson. 

Johnson is an estate planner and says most of his clients aren't concerned about protecting their digital assets when they die...but they should be. 

\"Photographs, iTunes accounts, Kindle books-those are actual assets that you have out there that you can pass on,\" said Johnson. 

Johnson says there aren't really any laws to dictate who is in charge and its not as simple as just giving someone else your password.

\"You're really at the mercy of those providers right now.  For instance if you have an online account that saves your photographs, that service contract might prohibit anyone else from logging on with your information to get those pictures,\" he said. 

The same goes for some of those subscription services you belong to. Some say only you can cancel them.

\"You may not know it when you sign on but you click on that \"I agree\" button many, many times when you sign on to those and likely you're saying to them you're not going to allow any other people to log in to your account. So even though your family may be trying to do the right thing by going on to your Netflix and canceling it, they also may be breaking the law,\" said Johnson. 

But it varies with every service. Amazon, for example says that's perfectly Ok with them. However, Twitter, Instagram and Google ask you to contact them through their respective websites. And the rules seem to be changing every day. 

 So what can you do? How can somehow legally cancel an account and get your assets, like photos? Johnson says your best bet is to contact an attorney.

\"We can designate someone in a will or trust that can actually go to the company and get those pictures from them. So we're not breaking the law by going in as you when you're gone,\" he said. 

But it also helps to go old school. Grab a pen and paper. 

\"In a perfect world you'd have a listing in a notebook that lists all those online accounts you have and passwords and all the activity: which bills are paid automatically, out of which accounts,\" said Johnson. 

Second, when your loved one passes, go to the bank with an original death certificate. Most banks we spoke with say canceling your bank account will almost instantly cancel online bill pay and accounts. 

Third, reach out to these online companies while you still can and see if you can name a successor, like you can on Facebook. 

\"I think more and more will [do that] going forward, if they allow you to designate a successor to actually log into your account. I think that's where we're headed but we're not there yet,\" said Johnson. 

And finally, if you don't want an attorney, save your stuff. 

\"Look more at  saving things in a secondary hard drive, getting away from the cloud as their only option and backing it up on a hard disc they have in their home,\" Johnson said. 

Click this link for a digital estate planning website, called Everplan: http://bit.ly/1OC3Efa. 

Here is another website to check out: http://bit.ly/1Ae5xmr


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