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How To Create A Social Media Will

Did you see it? This week the US government actually recommended that we all get our online houses in order for posterity. Now that Facebook has nearly a billion users, quickly followed by Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and other social sites, Washington is concerned that the Internet might end up with millions of accounts unattended do to disuse or death.

So a few weeks ago the government added a new section to their list of personal finance recommendations. It's called creating "a social media will."

The update brings up an interesting point. What happens to all those passwords and user names floating around in your head, if you're suddenly unable to access them or no longer have the ability to use them yourself?


If you're like most people, you know your Facebook logon, your YouTube ID and your Twitter or Picassa password by heart. Or you log in to them so much that your computer has memorized them for you and just basically logs you in. But what if you have to evacuate your home due to a hurricane or a wildfire? Will you bring your PC with you? Will you remember every single log on if you've only got a few minutes to update friends and family as to your well-being or trying to find your loved ones with the clock ticking.

Probably not.

It makes much more sense (and relieves a LOT of anxiety) to simply have all of those IDs, passwords and instructions written down in one place. Preferably in a format that you can easily find, edit and save on paper, on a portable flash drive, or in a password protected Cloud server. That way you, or someone working on your behalf will have the information you need to tend to your social media life.

So if the unthinkable were to happen - let's say that you are off skiing in Gstaad, hit the mountain a little too hard and are laid up in a Swiss hospital for six weeks without access to your computer. Your spouse, parents or best friend - whomever you appoint - will be able to use the list of your Social Media IDs and passwords to update your friends or raise money for your medevac flight back to the states.

Or worse, if that once in a lifetime trip to Switzerland ends up being a one-way trip, if you get my drift, your appointed person would be able to abide by your wishes to close, memorialize or continue your media accounts on your behalf, without having to sweet talk the online companies into handing over your user name and password.

And the other GREAT reason to have a Social Media Form like we're talking about is that it's the perfect way to keep all of your IDs and passwords in one place -- for your own benefit. Imagine not having to remember them all yourself. Or which account it was that made you add two numbers and three symbols to your password before they would let you sign up.

I know what you're thinking. That is exactly why you let your computer memorize the logons for you. Well that's fine until the computer decides to upgrade your Internet browser without asking you first and clears your entire password/ID cache, or your computer crashes and takes your logon information along with it. With the form, you'll even be able to edit your information on the fly, so the next time your social media accounts make you change your password for "your safety" you'll be able to jot down the new password and have it at your fingertips for the next logon.

We'd actually like to see people go a little farther than just jotting down their Facebook password and Twitter handle. What about your online file sharing accounts where you keep your most important documents or the accounts where you keep your photos and videos? You'd want your family to have access to those things right? Who wants the pictures of their five-year-olds birthday party to be locked away - completely inaccessible to the people who they mean the world to.

Or what about your Netflix account or membership sites that you pay for every month. If you were laid up in Switzerland for a lot time without Wi-Fi, your family might just need to be able to access or suspend those accounts - especially if you're not using them.

All you really need to create your own Social Media Will, is a list of all of the social media websites you regularly use, along with all of your user names and passwords. Then you'll have to note what you want done with each account in your absence. That could be temporary incapacitation (the broken leg and stuck in a hospital for a week example), long term absence (a great vacation with no wi-fi in sight), or death. And then you need to name a person who would act on your behalf, to maintain, edit or delete those accounts for you. You can either give the document to your attorney to become part of your will or put the location of the document into your will and let the person acting on your behalf (a spouse or executor) know where that document is located.

There's a wonderful article in the Atlantic Monthly this month called "The Social Media Will: An Expert Guide to Your Digital Afterlife.

"Gerry Beyer, a national expert in estate and trust issues, believes that all adults should get their virtual assets in order, sooner rather than later. After all, think about out the mess we're all potentially leaving behind. From banking passwords to eBay and LinkedIn log-in's, without some sort of long-range plan, our laptops are a jumble of personal and financial data our heirs can't possibly make heads or tails of.

"Sorting through a deceased's online life for the important things can be just as daunting as cleaning out the house of a hoarder," Beyer says. In the old days, you would never leave your kids without a safe-deposit key, so why lock them out of your online possessions?"

We couldn't agree more.


Article Source: Laura Greenwald

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