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Dealing with the loss of a loved one in the Digital Age

Most families prepare for the unthinkable with a will, but today, just as important is for families to prepare for the end of their digital life.

Just ask Karen Prangley about her dad's unexpected death.

"You're dealing with the idea that your dad might not be there the next day and also trying to make sure that you're doing the right thing on his behalf," said Prangley.

Her dad, Greg Prangley, suffered two devastating strokes at the age of 62.

His entire business was tied to his Yahoo email account.

Within a month the family business collapsed.

HOW TO PREPARE

Dan Ackerman, a Senior Editor for CNET, recommends that you do more than just share your passwords.

He suggests you set up a digital inheritance.

"I would go to each individual service that you use, social media service or something like Google where you have a lot of different services that you wrap together and look for the appropriate page on each one where you can set up basically your legacy contact or your wishes for what would happen to your account and your information after you die," said Ackerman.

Protecting your digital afterlife is a relatively new concept.

Ackerman said part of your plan should also include adding your digital life expectations to your will.

"As part of estate planning, you should set up a Data Executor in your will that has permission to access your account, to either give them the password information ahead of time or make them an authorized user on your accounts," said Ackerman.

STEPS-BY-STEP ADVICE

-Establish a Data Executor in your will

-Make your Data Executor an authorized user on each of your social media and online accounts

-And/or give your Data Executor access to your accounts now

-Designate a legacy contact on each of your social media and online accounts

-And give instructions in your will regarding how to handle your social media accounts. Your family can request the account be removed or memorialized

-Below are links detailing how to do this on these three popular social media sites:

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

LEARNING THE HARD WAY

That’s something Karen's father didn’t do.

The family contacted Yahoo for help to access their father’s account.

But the company's policy states, “Neither the yahoo account nor any of the content therein are transferable even when the account owner is deceased.”

"We really learned it the hard way. Being a small business owner, he had everything in that account. Everything was lost. And to this day, we never were able to get into that Yahoo account," said Prangley.

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