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Digital Estate_45min



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Facts show: Every day we leave behind a multitude of digital footprints. Those footprints do not go away – even after we die. Nevertheless, only 18% of users in Germany manage their digital estate. But what is a “digital estate” anyway?
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What do you think of when you hear the terms “estate” or “heir”? Valuables such as jewelry, cars or money are often associated with it. Today however, life is happening more and more on the Internet, where things get left behind after someone dies.

A digital estate comprises all of the electronic data a person leaves behind on a digital device (e. g. computer, tablet, smartphone) and on the Internet after his or her death. This includes customer and social network accounts. Whether on the Internet or on a hard drive – the deceased’s messages, photos and images are also part of their digital estate.
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During your lifetime you create a multitude of accounts, e. g. in online shops or on video portals. These still exist after you die.

Offline files

Those who survive you can still access images, presentations or documents that you saved while you were alive, even after your death.

Electronic messages

Every day you send and receive many messages. E-mails, chat histories and voice messages endure the passage of time.

Digital goods

More and more “digital goods” such as music files, films or video games are being purchased on the Internet. Currencies such as the crypto currency Bitcoin are also included. These purchases remain even after death.

Profiles in social networks

Nine out of ten Internet users are active on social networks such as Facebook, Instagram or Xing. These profiles continue to exist after someone dies.

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Leonard (38) is fatally injured in a traffic accident. Despite the will he wrote, unexpected problems arise.
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Three months after Leonard's funeral, his family receives a bill. A streaming service has charged them EUR 34.89 for the last three months.

Think about it before you continue scrolling: Does his family have to pay this bill?
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Purchase agreements or subscriptions often do not end with death. According to law, obligations of the deceased are transferred to their heirs. Therefore, as the heir, you must pay the deceased's outstanding bills.
However, you can contact the company issuing the bill directly. Recent purchases may still be subject to the right of withdrawal. Or the company is accommodating and foregoes payment.
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Two years after Leonard's death, birthday greetings are still being posted to his chronicle. This is always a sad moment, especially for his wife Christina.

Think about it before you continue scrolling: Can Christina prevent others from posting to her late husband's chronicle?
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It is difficult to access a social media account without login data. Many social networks do not allow family members to access the account of the deceased, since their data should also be protected.

A similar case has gone to court in 2012: The parents of a deceased fifteen-year old girl in Germany were hoping to access their daughter’s account and thus gain insight into her sudden death by analyzing her messages and chats. However, Facebook had already memorialized her account, making it impossible for the parents to log in even though they knew the username and the password. The German Federal Supreme Court passed judgement on the case, deciding that personal data such as social media accounts are passed on to the family. With this judgement, family members could get access to their deceased relatives’ social media accounts in the future.  
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People have used places such as cemeteries to remember their deceased loved ones for centuries. However, the Internet also offers ways of remembering the deceased. Watch the video to see how digital offers are changing the idea of “rest in peace”.
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We know, no one likes to think about dying: But think about tomorrow today and settle your digital estate in time. Your relatives will thank you for it!

You can find a summary of the module in the download section.

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