Your Digital Afterlife – Do You Have A Plan?

Managing your Digital Afterlife has been a discussion popping up more and more with Professional Organizers over the past several years.

If someone passes or is incapacitated, life around them still goes on. Whether it’s paying the mortgage and the cell phone bill or contacting the insurance company, things must be addressed.  

Every day, our online and digital presence becomes more a part of how we do business and interact with others.

When the person-in-the-know is no longer in control of those accounts, it is not as simple as opening up a drawer in a desk and knowing what comes next.

It’s not always that obvious

Some things are not necessarily obvious when someone passes away: 

    • What should happen to the various social media accounts? Google has an “inactive account manager”, Facebook has “Legacy Contact” and Twitter has a policy in place that family members can utilize.  But you need to plan ahead for these. And what about the sites that do not have policies at all?

    • What about all the digital photos in a cloud account? What is owned and by whom? What can the family member access and obtain after a death? 

    • How about the iTunes library? Amazon Kindle Library? (Did you know you do not own these, and cannot transfer them?)

    • Email accounts… what happens there? What should happen to old emails? Who can access the account? 

    • Can someone even get into the laptop, the computer, the phone?

It was our turn to start

I am the person in charge of paying the bills at home. I started cataloging our accounts, passwords, and details such as “this payment come out of the bank automatically on the 15th of each month” or “this account auto-renews each May”. This is a living document that evolves over time and needs real-time upkeeping.

My husband and I both have a list called “in the event of my death” which describes the steps, in sequential order, to handle everything in the event of the other spouse’s death. For example: “People to personally contact prior to posting the news on social media” or “How to handle my personal social media accounts”, and “What to post to my professional network”.

This file is security protected and backed up, and my husband knows where to find it, and how to open it. There’s more to that: ensure that the backup executors know about this file and how to access it. 

Where to start?

A good place to start gathering a list of items you should be tracking is GYST. GYST or “Get Your S___ Together”, is a great website to help you think about organizing all aspects of planning for death, not just digital details.

Digital Beyond has a big list of online companies in the market for managing post-death information and many help you store this information that you are gathering. It also maintains a list of states that have enacted laws related to digital estate management. They also offer sample legal language for you to include in your own Power of Attorney or Wills to address control issues.

Your afterlife plan needs maintenance

This process isn’t something you do once and leave aside.  It requires important upkeep:

    • Update the passwords if you’ve changed them (This is assuming you’re not using a password management system that records changes automatically)

    • Add new accounts as you open them and delete those you close

    • Make sure that the people who need to know where this information is know how to access it

A conversation that should not wait

This isn’t just a topic for addressing with aging parents; this is something that can impact anyone, at any time. It is rather urgent to have plans of this nature if these don’t exist.

Please do not wait until it is too late and do not delay this conversation, as unpleasant as it can be. It is in your best interest (and the interest of yours), that these plans are made, thoroughly and on time.