Your digital afterlife or your online presence after death is something people don’t think much about, even less have a plan for it. The concept of digital presence after death 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, and things need to happen -whether paying the mortgage and cell phone bill or contacting the insurance company.
Every day, our online 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 that family members can utilize. But it would be best if you planned for these. And what about the sites that do not have policies at all?
- Are all their digital photos in a cloud account? Who owns what in terms of those pictures? How can a family member access these after the death of a loved one?
- How about the iTunes library? Amazon Kindle Library? (Did you know you do not own these and cannot transfer them?)
- What happens with email accounts? What should happen to old emails? Who can access the account?
- Can someone even get into the laptop, the computer, the phone?
I am the person in charge of paying the bills at home. So I started cataloging accounts, passwords, and details about payments processes. I created a living document that evolves 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 case one of us dies. For example: “People to personally contact before posting the news on social media” or “How to handle social media accounts,” and “What to post to professional networks.”
This file is protected and backed up, and my husband knows where to find it and how to open it. But there’s more to ensure that the backup executors know about this file and how to access it.
Where To Start?
An excellent 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 robust list of online companies in the market for managing post-death information. Many of these companies can help you store the information that you are gathering. Digital Beyond 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 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 essential 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
The online presence after death isn’t just a topic for addressing with aging parents; this is something that impacts everyone at some point or another. Therefore, 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), to make these plans thoroughly and on time.