Your Online Identity: How to Plan for the Future

Since the invention of the internet, more and more of our life has been placed online. People now store all sorts of information on websites. The many different ways that you use the internet comprises your online identity. Your websites, e-mail addresses, e-mails, usernames, banking information, social network accounts, blogs and passwords are all the parts of you that are held within the World Wide Web. Most people never even consider how important these online identifications are.

Most people have incredibly confidential information stored online in the form of e-mails, messages, or locked sites. Maybe you do all of your banking online. You might have a secret password that accesses your accounts, e-mails, social sites, and credit card payment services like PayPal. With that password, someone could figure out almost anything about you, use any services that you are subscribed to, and spend your money with online shopping. If you don't plan for the future of your online identity, all of your accounts may cease to exist. A lot of different websites will discontinue a username if the person does not log on within a certain amount of time.

This means that valuable information could be lost forever in the void of the internet. You may want to place your passwords to certain accounts in your will and give them to a family member or friend you trust. If you want, you can specify which services you want to discontinue, and which ones you would rather someone maintained after your passing. You might think that by just providing passwords you will have done enough preparation for the future of your online self. Yet this isn't always the end. Some web companies, such as Yahoo Mail, won't just grant your passwords to anyone. They will not allow access to any e-mail without some serious legal action.

Google Gmail will force your heirs to send in a copy of the death certificate in order to gain access to the account. They will also want a copy of the power of attorney or a birth certificate. The decedent is required to send an e-mail from his or her account that states that he or she wants the account willed to another individual when he or she dies. If these rules are not all followed exactly, Gmail won't hand the account over. Some network sites like MySpace have a clause in their agreement that says that when you die, your profile dies too.

If you don't want anyone to inherit your accounts when you die, then it is probably best to leave them be. Chances are that they will be shut down due to inactivity. Yet some people believe that their online profiles would help their family or friends to cope with the loss or clarify some confusion. You can create a flash drive that contains all of your e-mail accounts, websites, and passwords on it and will it to a family member. You can also place all of your important online information on a service called Legacy Locker. This site will store all of your information, and can only be accessed by someone who is listed as a beneficiary in your will and given specific information.

Another important aspect of the online you is any websites that you own. If you are self-employed, or have a website that is connected with your occupation, you will need to decide what to do about this domain. You may want your employees to continue maintaining the website. If you do, then you will need to make provisions so that someone can assume ownership of the site in your stead. Your website is considered internet real estate, so you will need to transfer your title to a new owner, much like you would do with a home.

It is legal to bequeath your copyrighted website to another person, but you will need to choose someone who has the talent that it takes to run your site. Make sure to copyright your site before you die if you have not done so already. This will protect the domain, so that people can't go in and change things without the permission of the new owner. What happens to your online identity after you pass away is up to you, but it may be wise to follow some of these precautions and protect the many facets of your life that are stored somewhere on the internet.