Have you ever thought about what happens to your Facebook account when you die? What about your iTunes and Amazon accounts? Even reward programs, like airline miles, are considered your digital assets that could ultimately be vulnerable to identity theft and leave your family members stressed and confused.
Research shows the average American has $55,000 in digital assets, so Portland startup WebCease is working to help grieving families sort it all out. Founder and CEO Glenn C. Williamson is officially launching the company this week but pursued the idea after his own mom died a couple years ago.
“In a will, my mom had inventory of artwork. She had inventory of her jewelry -- all the physical monetary things, but there is no inventory of all things digital,” Williamson said. “She was a totally hip grandma, she was on Twitter, and she had 13 accounts. That's not unusual.”
He also wasn’t sure where she might have airline miles or hotel points and whether she had online shopping accounts that could be left for thieves to hack into.
WebCease searches and finds what accounts someone has and then will break down the end-of-life rules and options for family members to consider.
“Every site is a little bit different, and that's the confusion,” Williamson said. “You’ve got to figure out all the terms, like what can I do with Marriott verse Hyatt (reward points)?”
For Williamson, the issue of security is the biggest concern.
“If someone recently passed, bad guys use them for identity theft, which is a horrible crime because recently deceased don't check email and they don't get mail,” he said.
So what can you do now, even before you die?
“The best thing to do today is sit down and make an inventory of your online accounts with your passwords,” he said. “Have this referenced in your will, but do not have it be part of your will because your will is a public document.”
Whether you take care of it now or leave it up to WebCease, it’ll be one less thing for your grieving family to think about.