Digital Purging and Accessing Data Upon One’s Death

Recently, I have been working on my estate plan. Naturally, as a forensic analyst, I have an interesting perspective after examining multiple computers and phones of those that have passed. Also, consider that important information may be kept in cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox, MS OneDrive, etc.

Dealing with the death of a loved one can be daunting, so why not make it easier on them by clearing the legal hurdles for them to access this information? Also, consider all the very sensitive and personal information we keep on our phones and computers. Improper disclosure of this information could cause harm to the family members of even the most respectable people.

Therefore, I have the following recommendations:

  • Include language in your will that grants your executor authority to “To access, manage, copy, distribute, deactivate, and delete any of my digital assets, wherever situated, and to obtain, access, modify, control, and delete my passwords, encryption codes, and any other electronic credentials associated with my digital assets.” And then define your digital assets as your electronic devices, your information (wherever it is stored), and all your communications, etc.
  • Google has an “Inactive Account Manager” that you can use to designate one or more individuals that should be granted access to your Google account when it becomes inactive. Use this feature with a designated Google account containing the critical information and provide detailed instructions and passwords that your executor will need to access your other cloud accounts. If you are concerned about protecting this information from Google, securely encrypt it and give your executor the password. By storing the information in a Google Drive folder, the executor cannot decrypt it until they are granted access to the Google account. Read more here: https://support.google.com/accounts/troubleshooter/6357590?hl=en
  • Make sure that your executor understands the proper way to destroy the information in your various devices. Modern cell phones can be factory reset, but older phones should probably just be physically destroyed. Deleting information on a hard drive does not actually destroy it. It needs to be “securely wiped” by overwriting each sector on the hard drive. Otherwise, forensic techniques can be used to recover the information.

I hope that this information is helpful. If you ever need to access or destroy the information of a deceased loved one and you have the legal authority but need technical assistance, Lucid Truth Technologies can help. Just contact us.

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