Digital heritage and data legacy

An Aboriginal saying goes "We are all just visitors in this world and at this time...". One journey lasts longer, the other shorter. If we have to say goodbye to our world, we leave traces behind. Our relatives, friends and acquaintances will come across them sooner or later. Since we naturally own many material things, these are passed on to certain people. In addition to books, jewelry, houses and coins, we also leave behind a digital legacy. Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, email inboxes or other user accounts must now be deleted and blocked. Do the survivors know if and where various accounts exist? Do they know the passwords?

Without a password, deleting an account can be difficult.

How to go on

According to §1922, the Civil Code regulates universal succession. Thus, after the death of a person, his or her assets pass in their entirety to one or more persons entitled to inherit. Most people now think of the general claims. However, digital inheritance is also included. This means that heirs are entitled to access Facebook accounts, for example. A digital account in a social network counts like the mail left behind. A ruling from 12.06.2018 Az. III ZR 183/17 reinforces this and clarifies ambiguities.

Manage passwords

However, to save our surviving dependents trouble, we can store our passwords in paper form or in so-called password managers during our lifetime. Of course, these should always be updated and kept in a safe place. Only certain and trustworthy people should have access. A list of all accounts or user accounts, as well as the e-mail accounts and passwords stored for them, could be one possibility.

Those who prefer the digital variant can, for example, store their passwords free of charge and freely at KeePass. All access data is stored there, which is secured by a single password. The advantage is that you only have to remember one master code and have all the data safely at hand on a USB stick.

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