What is a digital legacy, and how can you plan it?

Anton P. | January 23, 2023

Digital legacy refers to information about people that remain online after their deaths. Users can now appoint family members or friends to be in charge of their accounts. 

Considering the amount of data stored within accounts, planning its fate is one of the newer users’ responsibilities. A digital legacy plan can save your family the trouble of going through lengthy processes to access accounts. 

Setting up a digital legacy is not a pleasant process. However, it is a guarantee that appointed people can manage your data according to your instructions. For instance, you might wish to have your online accounts and data permanently deleted. 

Digital legacy refers to data about an user left online after they pass way.

What is a digital legacy? 

Digital legacy is all the information available about users online after they pass away. The simplest example would be sharing a password to your smartphone with a loved one. 

Another example of this is social media accounts on Facebook or Instagram. 

Studies explored the problem with digital heritage on Facebook. A 2019 analysis by Oxford University predicted that Facebook could have 5 billion accounts belonging to deceased people by 2100. 

Usually, people have two options for planning their digital legacy: 

  • Setting up a legacy contact who will take care of the account or turn it into a memorial-style page. 
  • It is also possible to set automatic account deletion when a service receives information about one’s death. 

What are the dangers of not planning your digital legacy? 

Having a digital legacy smoothens the process of getting the digital affairs of the deceased person in order. 

  1. Digital assets might be lost. A digital legacy guarantees that your family can access important documents and assets. 
  2. Criminals could exploit personal information for identity theft. Ghosting is one of the ways to commit identity theft. Criminals apply for new credit cards using the details of a deceased person. 
  3. Your family might need to request access to accounts. Losing a loved one is devastating. Thus, ensure that your family can take care of your digital legacy as efficiently as possible. 

Digital legacy on different online services

Online services offer different ways to manage your digital legacy. Let’s review some of the essential accounts to prepare. 

Apple legacy contacts

You can appoint one or more people to manage your Apple ID in the event of your death. Here is what you need to know before setting up the Apple digital legacy program. 

  • You need at least iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2, or macOS 12.1 devices to set up your digital legacy.
  • The chosen legacy contacts receive access to notes, files, photos, backups, and downloaded apps. 
  • Remember that subscriptions purchased with your Apple ID and data within Keychain won’t be available to legacy contacts. 
  • Your legacy contact does not need to have an Apple ID or Apple device. 

The legacy contact must supply the access key and your death certificate to access your account. 

Google inactive account manager

Google also lets you set up a digital legacy plan for your account. You can do this by indicating when Google should consider your account inactive. 

  • You can choose your inactivity period between three and 18 months. Then, Google determines the account as inactive. 
  • Users add trusted contacts that will receive updates when accounts become inactive. 
  • You can choose which information trusted contacts can access for three months. 
  • You can also tell Google to delete your account after three months of your account becoming inactive. 


Paypal does not offer options for setting up your digital legacy in advance. When relatives wish to close accounts and transfer funds, they must go through lengthy processes. They will need to provide proof of death, evidence of their position, and other documents. 

Cash App

Cash App lets you add a beneficiary for your investing account, not your general account. Thus, to manage your digital legacy and assets, relatives will need to provide death certificates, proof of relation, etc. 


Facebook allows users to select legacy contacts who will take care of their digital legacy on Facebook. 

  • Your legacy contact will manage accounts after they get memorialized. 
  • Memorialized accounts allow friends to share memories and feature the word Remembering. 
  • Legacy contacts will not be able to log into your accounts, read messages, or deal with friend requests. 


Instagram follows a similar approach to Facebook when it comes to digital legacy. One difference is that you cannot add a legacy contact. 

However, anyone can request an account to be a memorial-style page. It is also crucial to provide a death certificate. 

When it comes to account deletion, only immediate family or authorized people can request it. 


Twitter does not let you set up legacy contact or memorialized accounts. Instead, authorized people can contact Twitter to have accounts deactivated. 

Prepare a plan for digital legacy 

You should keep track of your digital legacy besides setting up legacy contacts. 

  • Your legacy contacts should know what you want to do with your accounts. For instance, you might wish to keep memorialized profiles or delete them. 
  • Keep a list of all your accounts, including usernames and passwords. Then, let the chosen person have access to this information. 
  • Whenever possible, set your account for deletion after months of inactivity. It can also help reduce digital footprint
  • If necessary, provide thorough instructions on other digital assets like subscriptions or banking accounts. 

Overall, digital legacy consists of providing access to selected contacts and leaving them with instructions on how to proceed.

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Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.


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