When you think about preparing your Estate Plan, what may first come to mind is having a Will, or setting up Nomination of Guardian documents to protect your minor children in the event that you pass away unexpectedly. What you may not be thinking about is your Digital Legacy. In fact, this may be the first time you’ve ever heard that term. Nevertheless, you’re about to discover why it is important to protect your Digital Legacy, especially in regard to your Google account.
Here at Trust & Will, we know understanding all the intricacies that go into making an Estate Plan can be confusing and complicated. This can be especially true for your Digital Legacy, which has grown in importance over the years, but is still relatively new to the estate planning process. That’s why we’ve decided to cover it here. Keep reading to learn:
We have put this article together to specifically go over what your Digital Legacy is, how you can protect your Digital Legacy attached to your Google account, and what a Trusted Contact is in regard to your Google account.
What is a Digital Legacy?
A Digital Legacy refers to all the digital information about you that is stored on the internet and will continue to live on even after you have passed away, hence becoming your legacy. This information can come from a wide variety of sources, such as email accounts, online photos and videos, all social media accounts, gaming accounts, and much more.
Digital Legacies are a relatively new entity of one’s Estate yet one you will need to address. Technology evolves quickly as does its capacity to store significant amounts of your personal data online. With the amount of information we now store and post online increasing, our need to protect our Digital Legacy has become more important. If we do not include directives pertaining to our Digital Legacy within our Estate Plan, our loved ones may find themselves without any authority to manage our Digital Legacy when we are no longer here. This can be less than ideal for anyone who wants to minimize their digital footprint after their death.
What is a Trusted Contact in Google?
Having a Trusted Contact in Google allows you to choose someone you trust to gain access to your Google account data after a certain period of inactivity. Having a Trusted Contact in Google means that after you pass away, your specified Trusted Contact will be automatically notified of the detected inactivity on your account and will be permitted access to some or all of your data. However, it is important to note that your Trusted Contact will be notified after the specified period of time of inactivity, regardless of whether or not you have actually passed away. For example, if you specify that your Trusted Contact should be notified after six months of inactivity, this will happen even if you are still living. Therefore, if you are not a regularly active Google account member, you may want to set a longer inactivity period than someone who is a frequent Google account user.
How Does it Work?
When you choose someone as your Trusted Contact in Google, you will be asked to provide a phone number that Google can use to contact your Trusted Contact. Upon reaching the specified inactivity timeline, Google will send a predetermined message to your Trusted Contact’s phone number.
When you set up your Trusted Contact, you will have the opportunity to write a personalized message to your Trusted Contact. Additionally, depending on the responsibilities you choose to give your Trusted Contact, Google will also include specific information your Trusted Contact will need to know. You will also have the ability to choose to delete your account once it is declared inactive after a specified amount of time.
How to Designate a Trusted Contact
In order to designate a Trusted Contact, you will need to go to your Google Account settings by clicking the collection of dots in the right-hand corner of the Google page and clicking “Account”. From there, you will need to click on “Data & Privacy” and scroll down to more options. In this section, you will see an option to make a plan for your Digital Legacy. Once you click on this option, you will be able to choose the time period you want your account to be declared inactive, who should be notified, what information should be shared with them, and whether or not you would like your account deleted once it has been declared inactive.
What Data Can the Trusted Contact Have Access to?
When you go into your Google account settings to appoint your Trusted Contact, Google will provide you with a list of access options you may grant to your Trusted Contact. A few of the access options include: Mail, YouTube, Chrome, Drive, G Suite Marketplace, Google Pay, and much more. Having these options will allow you to pick and choose where you want to grant access to after you pass away.
Deciding how you want to handle your Estate Plan can be a time-consuming process. There are many personal variables to consider and many decisions that will go on record and become legally recognized Estate documents in the eyes of the court. Therefore, these are decisions that you will not want to take lightly or rush into. However, the process of creating your Estate Plan does not have to be complicated, costly, or time-consuming. We offer state-specific Estate Planning documents you can access online, allowing you to complete your entire Estate Plan from the comfort of your own home. We’ve already helped hundreds of thousands of families create their Estate Plans, customized to fit their needs, their life, and their legacy.
Unsure where to start? Take our free online quiz to allow us to point you in the right direction. We also offer additional attorney support to those who think it may be beneficial. So, what are you waiting for? Get started today!