Hamilton Law Blog

Designating A Beneficiary to Access Your Digital Assets

Posted by Shaina C. Wolf, Esq. | Jun 10, 2024 | 0 Comments

In an increasingly digital world, our clients often wonder what will happen to their digital accounts, such as Facebook, Gmail, or Apple accounts after they pass away. Unfortunately gaining access to those accounts without any pre-death planning can be taxing and costly to clients and their loved ones. Luckily, individual platforms are beginning to offer new ways for users to plan for their account management after their death.

Apple Devices:

For all Apple devices with iOS 15.2 or later, Apple provides for setting up a “Legacy Contact” to give a trusted individual access to the data in your Apple account after your death.

Without this process, Apple requires a court order specifically providing for a personal representative or trustee to gain access to digital accounts. This course of action opens probate, which may be necessary only for this portion of an estate.

In order to avoid this, you can set up a Legacy Contact in the settings of your iPhone or other Apple device using the following steps:

1. Go to settings on your device, and click your name at the top of your screen

2. Click the “Sign-In & Security” option

3. Click on “Legacy Contact” near the bottom of your screen

4. Finally, click “Add Legacy Contact” to designate someone from your contact list to access your account after your death.

Any legacy contacts will be notified through your Apple Device, but as always, we at Hamilton Law recommend discussing your choices and wishes openly with your family and/or friends.

Gmail and Google Accounts:

Google accounts provide for setting up an “Inactive Account Manager” for all Google accounts you may have. This allows for a trusted individual or individuals to be notified after a certain period of inactivity (for example, 3, 6, or 12 months). Once your inactive account manager is notified, they can download your data in advance of its deletion if you've selected that option.

Similar to Apple, without this process, Google requires personal information about the account holder and the personal representative to be submitted to them for review. Again, this can be a difficult process, especially in times of hardship.

To set up an Inactive Account Manager, follow the steps below in your own Google Account:

1. Sign in and view your Google Account

2. Click the “Data & Privacy” tab in your account.

3. Click “More Options” under the data & privacy options header

4. Click “Make a Plan for your Digital Legacy” and follow the prompted instructions to select the length of time your account needs to be inactive before the removal of data and confirm who you'd like Google to notify once your account becomes inactive.

Other Digital Accounts & More Tips:

While Apple and Google are two large tech companies that provide specific avenues for after-death planning, it is always a good idea to check the settings of your various social media or other accounts in the event that they provide for a similar process.

In addition, keeping a secure list of updated accounts with usernames and passwords for your family members or friends to access after your death is always recommended. It is important to ensure the list is updated regularly and that it's kept in a secure location (such as a fireproof safe) that your family members and friends are aware of so they will know how to access it in the event of your death.

How Hamilton Law Can Help:

At Hamilton Law, PLC, we understand that estate planning can be a difficult topic, but we are committed to helping you navigate the complexities of estate planning and asset protection, including safeguarding your digital legacy. If you have any questions or would like to discuss your digital asset protection plan further, please don't hesitate to reach out to us.

About the Author

Shaina C. Wolf, Esq.

Associate Attorney


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