After we’re gone, our online presence lives on

At some point, we all need to plan for the future after we are gone. You have likely thought about drafting or finalizing your will or prepaying funeral arrangements, but what about your online presence? Undoubtedly you have things stored online you want to pass on to your loved ones. If you think all those photos stored in the cloud are waiting for you upon your ascension, you will be disappointed. Fortunately, companies like Google are making options available to help you manage what happens to your account.

Email, photos, social media and passwords to online accounts are all things you may want loved ones to access. Organizations are recognizing this need. It’s not always black and white. Without consent, most organizations will not provide access to an account. This is why it is important to prepare accordingly. I have thousands of photos stored in my online accounts that I want to make sure my family can enjoy long after I am gone.

If you want to make sure your Google photos or documents are accessible, Google lets you do this through the Inactive Account Manager. You can select up to 10 people for this access and determine what each person can access on an individual basis.

You may also want Google to forget everything it knows about you. Google keeps track of things such as map usage, online searches, and any information gathered from using its products. If you want to manage your Google data, follow the instructions below.

First, go to and select the data and personalization tab on the left side of the page. Scroll until you see “make a plan for your account” and click to start creating your plan. There is no way for Google to know when you pass away, instead you will be selecting a period of inactivity to start the process you are about to create. The timeframe can be as short as three months of inactivity, or as long as 18 months. Google will notify you 1-3 months prior to taking action so you have time to stop the process in case you haven’t used your account for a while. You will be directed to give your email and phone number so you can be reached in the event you are still alive.

During the next step, you will be given the opportunity to notify someone if your account becomes inactive. This email can give the recipient a personal note, such as a last goodbye, or additional information to access accounts outside of Google. At this point, you will need to decide if your inactive account should be deleted. Read the page as it explains what deleting means. It won’t remove any social media accounts like Facebook or Twitter, but it will delete things like Google blog posts and YouTube videos. Please note this may make logging into other accounts difficult if your Google account was setup as the recovery account. Make sure you click “Review Plan” and double check all your settings.

Before you hit “Confirm Plan,” sign up for notifications that this plan is turned on. It can help you remember to check your Google accounts to keep them active. Those you choose to access your data with will only have three months to download what you have shared.

This gives you the ability to choose what happens to your data. Your digital data, if left unmanaged, will continue to live on. Make sure your data goes to whom YOU want so that your legacy can be cherished.