Inheriting Digital Legacy

I’m an executor for my mother’s estate and I’m working through the process. I’m managing the legal and financial aspects with abundant professional assistance, but I’m hoping to get some advice here regarding her digital legacy. (Yes, I’m aware of Take Control’s Digital Legacy published in 2017.)

So far, it’s been straightforward. We’ve been an Apple family ever since the Mac Plus so there are no cross-platform issues. She was very good about using LastPass and enabled Emergency Access so getting into all her websites has been no problem.

Here are some loose ends I’m thinking about:

  1. Social media accounts such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
  2. Photos Libraries, including sharing them with siblings.
  3. Apple ID, especially considerations for 2FA after wiping her devices.
  4. Gmail and other Google accounts.

Thank you for your input.

Google has settings for that; inactive account manager.

CNBC had a good article about the options:

For this, if you want to keep the Apple ID active, you can change a trusted phone number for the account to a number that you can access. If you have a Mac, another thing to do is to create an account on your computer that is associated with her Apple ID so that your Mac becomes a trusted device.

Also, regarding Apple ID, iOS 15 will soon be adding a feature called legacy contacts.

So, I guess better support for this from Apple is coming soon.

Yes, but using a password manager and enabling your executor to use it is better than Apple’s Digital Legacy.

A password manager can store bank account number, social security numbers, any text, and all your website passwords: almost everything an executor needs. Some password managers including Apple’s Keychain, will store TOTP codes for 2FA without the need for apps or fobs.

All you have to do is write down your master password and put it into your safe deposit box. Some password managers also support delegation; LastPass calls its Emergency Access.

Sure, but you asked the question, so I assumed you wanted answers. One thing that digital legacy may do that you asked about is access to photo libraries, but I guess we won’t know for sure until the feature is enabled.

Sorry for your loss, Nello.

It looks like your mother’s estate is in good hands.

  1. I have a vague recollection that Facebook have an option to turn a person’s page into a kind of memorial. This might permit people to share memories if you wished. For the likes of LinkedIn I would imagine that closing the account would be fine, unless work was where she had most of her contacts. It could be the case.

  2. I would simply share the photos library with the siblings, let them load it as they wish. You can always select which photo library to load up. Designate a System Photo Library in Photos - Apple Support It may be the case that there’s a lot of photos of items of not much importance, but it can be tricky to designate which images matter to everyone.

If you have access to them, I would give physical copies to all the relatives that are interested. Copy the complete libraries to flash drives or burn DVDs, as you feel is appropriate and give them out. I wouldn’t try to edit/deduplicate anything - that would be a lot of work and other relatives may have different opinions about what is important.

If there’s anythng in the cloud, download it and include it with what you distribute.

Of course, you can still grant relatives access to an on-line copy, but I don’t trust anything on-line to last as long as you (or the relatives) would want. You don’t want to be forever maintaining this library as photo sharing cloud services come and go in the future. Hence the reason to distribute personal physical copies of the original library.

Of course, you don’t need to switch your system library in order to work with multiple libraries. You can double-click any “.photoslibrary” package file in order to launch Photos and view/edit its contents. You only need to change the system library if you want to change the one that is integrating with the logged-in user’s iCloud account.

No idea on LinkedIn, but in addition to @tommy 's suggestion to “memorialize” her Facebook page (they call it that, and there is a process for it), if you have the login I would first go into the settings menu and download a copy of the information on the account.

That will download all posts, activity logs, lists of friends, and any other collateral, especially photos (which I assume you are most interested in).

When you are ready to do this, click the “View” link and follow instructions. It will take some time for the archive to compile, but eventually you will get a notification and a link to a downloadable ZIP file.

The reason I say “do it first” is that you don’t want to trigger any prohibitions on the file once it is memorialized—which may include anything from removing all of her posts to simply locking up any possibility of downloading an archive.

I’m very sorry for your loss. Good luck!

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Very sorry to hear of your loss. I was executor of my mother’s estate and it’s not much fun during an already difficult time.

I know this is a little outside the scope of what you’re asking but thought I might share what my family is doing with photos. For the past few months I’ve been compiling picture books of our lives. We recently did trips to Hong Kong, Japan, the USA, Hawaii, Outback Australia etc and they all have their own books. We’ve also done chronological books from when our kids were born in 1998 (really the start of the digital photo era) right up to this year.
Our reckoning is when I die the kids aren’t going to want to decipher many terabytes of digital images in multiple RAW and jpeg formats. When I print the books (an advantage of working for a publishing company) I produce 4 copies of each; one for me, my wife and for both of our kids. I figure they’re far more likely to keep a few books which documents their entire lives than try and sort through my complex digital world. It also alleviates the need for era-specific software to open some files in 50 years time.

I’ll also get around to having PDF versions available through Books or similar but I think the hard copies will be valued more just because of what they are.

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My sympathy on your loss.

I have been going through printed photographic legacies going back to at least the 1880s, and have seen the problems passed along with them. The three most obvious problems were sloppy handling of photos leaving them damaged, the inevitably degradation that came with replication of print photos that weren’t very good in the first place, and no good records of who was in the photos and what their relationship was. Scanning can take photos that were sharp in the first place look surprisingly good if you blow them up, but you’ll also find that many of those small photos from box cameras were never very sharp.

The big problem you can do something about is identification of who’s in the photo. Do it now, while you’re still around and remember who they are. I am now the last one who remembers people in many of the photos, and usually it’s because my parents or others of older generations told me or I found some lucky identification. Write carefully on the back of paper photos with a pen that won’t damage the print. For digital photos, put information in the file name, like Andrew McGowan 2-22-1900 Buffalo NY. Some photo formats allow for storing information in the file, but you can’t count on that format being around in a couple of decades or the person who inherits the digital file knowing where to look for it.

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I appreciate this information. My wife died suddenly and unexpectedly a few months ago, and I have kept her Facebook and email accounts active just to keep in touch with the folks for which that was her purpose in having the account. I wasn’t aware of this method of capturing Facebook information.

I wonder whether there is a similar way to download her email history from Gmail and from Yahoo, both of which seem to be IMAP-type accounts.

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I’m so sorry to hear about your wife! Google has Google Takeout, which will download everything from her Google account. I don’t know if Yahoo has something similar—quick searches didn’t turn anything up.

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Apparently you can download Gmail rather easily.

However, that wasn’t enough for me; I needed to keep her accounts open and receive new email from utilities, banks, etc, until I was ready to close these accounts.

What I did with my mother’s (Gmail) email accounts was to modify my own Gmail account to:

  1. Create a Label for her email (Settings → Label → (scroll down) Create new label
  2. Automatically apply this Label to all email from her so that it’s easy to find/manage from my own account (Settings → Filters and Blocked Addresses → (scroll to bottom) Create a new filter)
  3. Continually poll and import any new email sent to her account (Settings → Accounts → Check mail from other accounts)

This facilitated continuous monitoring of her email.

Hope this helps.

Carl, I am so sorry to hear about your wife :frowning:

I’ve had a couple of friends pass, that had FB accounts and am unsure what to request with mine (if FB is still around when I am not).

One of my friends accounts is still active, but she had it locked down so no one could post on it. But all of our conversations are intact.

The other one, his wife removed a month after his death. So not only did all of our comments on each others photos/pages disappear, but all of the brilliant writings he did in groups we were in are all gone as well.

I miss being able to see his writings.

On another note, Yahoo had a way a couple of years ago to download your content but that may have been more to do with their non-defunct groups.