Your Digital Afterlife: What happens online when you die?
Death ends a life, not a relationship – Jack Lemmon
Some time ago, I read a news report about a family who wanted to obtain the email messages of their son who had been killed in Iraq.
Wow. I hadn’t thought about all my electronic virtual possessions, such as emails and files.
What type of information is contained within my messages and files? What should, or would I want, my survivors be able to view? What would my own multiple mail service providers do with all my messages?
You might not know what happens when you die but you can control what happens online!
As more people around the world join the Internet community each day, and as we all slowly put our most private and sensitive documents and other materials into digital format, the question about what happens to it all when we die continues to be a hot topic. There have been several services that have popped up, many of which we have read about, that offer to update your Twitter and Facebook accounts with your last tweet and status update after your death (which you write before you die).
In addition to regular estate planners, there are now digital estate planners who specialize in helping prepare the digital lives so everything will remain safe (deleted, stored or transferred) after you die.
Keeping the memory of our loved ones alive is one thing; keeping their personal, private data and information safe, is quite another.
What to do with the digital footprint is not something we easily consider. Nor is it likely something we ever will. That’s why it is important for each of us to take charge of our digital afterlife now, while we are still kicking.
Read on for tips on how to exactly do that.
Google Death Manager
It may sound cryptic, but Google’s Death Manager tool (it’s actually called an “Inactive Account Manager”) is quite a blessing. For each of the properties to which the Internet giant has access, Google can act as your personal data trustee upon notification of your death. Google essentially gives you two options: 1. Allow Google to delete your data; or 2. Allow trusted contacts access to your accounts.
Enabling the feature takes less than two minutes (assuming you won’t have to wrestle with who to choose as your “trusted contact”.) If you are a Google user, I highly recommend taking these two minutes to get it set up.
How do I start preparing now?
What will happen with your Twitter page, or your Facebook photos, or your online bank statements, or your emails and texts, or your music, or your file sharing accounts, or your domains, or your blog(s), or your online investment accounts, or your online journal, etc. after you die?
Guide to protect yourself online before you die
Identify your digital assets: The term digital assets means, but is not limited to, files including but not limited to emails, documents, images, audio, video and similar digital files which currently exists or may exists, stored on digital devices including, but not limited to, desktops, laptops, tablets, storage devices, mobile phones and any similar digital device which currently exists or may exist, regardless of the ownership of the physical device upon which the digital asset is stored.
Identify your digital accounts: The term digital accounts means, but is not limited to, email accounts, software licenses, social network accounts, social media accounts, file sharing accounts, financial management accounts, domain registration accounts, domain name service accounts, web hosting accounts, tax preparation service accounts, online stores, other online accounts which currently exist or may exists.
Choose an Estate Planner: Once you have identified the most important items you have online it is important to keep track of the logins and decide what you want to do with them. You can select an executor to carry out your parting wishes, seek service from a website or store them where your family has easy access to them. The main purpose is to make it easier for your loved ones to take necessary action for your accounts.
Create your Digital Legacy: It’s easy to ignore this issue saying that you’ll be gone. If you pause to think about it, many of our old ways of remembering people have shifted to digital form. Photos, videos, and writings – all of these things are largely digital now.
Final Thoughts: Think ahead and take charge of what you want to happen with your assets. Consider your online footprint as a way your kids and family in the future can remember you by. Creating awareness can preserve memory you leave behind.