Do You Have a Digital Estate Plan?
What will happen to your email, Facebook, iTunes and Amazon accounts if you die? It’s an uncomfortable question, but leaving it unanswered can be vastly more distressing and costly for your loved ones who survive you. Here are some tips on setting up a digital estate plan...
You Can't Take Them With You...
Recently, there was a rumor that actor Bruce Willis was planning to sue Apple for the right to leave his iTunes music collection to his children. There was also a story about Steve Jobs being reincarnated in a parallel world. The Willis rumor was debunked, and I'm pretty sure that Steve won't be checking his email any time soon.
Sooner or later, we'll all kick the bucket, buy the farm, or shed the mortal coil. But when you go, what will happen to your online accounts? You may or may not be content to just leave your Gmail or Facebook account dormant. You may have photos or documents in cloud storage. What if you have money in your Paypal account? And will your surviving relatives have the keys to your online banking or investment portfolio?
Also keep in mind that email and social network accounts can get hacked. Families and friends have been traumatized by spam sent from the accounts of the deceased. It can be difficult for survivors to get online accounts shut down after someone dies. Sometimes, it requires an expensive lawsuit or other court action.
Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and some other major online services have procedures for handling the accounts of deceased members. In most cases, they require faxed copies of a death certificate, the photo ID of the requestor, and a notarized statement of authority. But Amazon, Grooveshark, Foursquare, and many others don’t publish any information about dealing with deceased members’ accounts. The DeceasedAccount website offers a handy guide to the deceased-member policies of many online services.
The simplest solution is to write down all of your accounts and their login credentials, then give that list to someone you trust. Of course, you’ll have to remember to constantly update that document when you change passwords or create new accounts. But what if you don’t trust anyone with all of your digital keys, at least while you’re still alive?
Digital Estate Planning Tools
DeadmansSwitch.net lets you send emails after you die. An email to your executor, for instance, might contain a list of accounts and passwords or a full-blown digital will and testament. The service sends a check-in email to you every so often; you confirm that you’re still alive by clicking on a reply link. If you don’t reply within 60 days, you are presumed to be dead and your stored emails are sent. The free version supports up to two recipients. For a one-time fee of $20, you get up to 100 recipients and the ability to customize the check-in intervals and reply deadline.
SecureSafe.com adds cloud storage to the posthumous email solution. You can upload documents and other files that will be sent to recipients upon your presumed death. Each file gets assigned to a beneficiary, so you can leave different things to different people. The free version supports storage of up to 50 account passwords, while paid versions provide more storage space and security such as two-factor authentication that beneficiaries must provide to access their bequests.
The Digital Beyond is a news and information site devoted to digital estate planning. It offers a directory of services similar to those mentioned above; links to news articles on the subject; and a book called, “Your Digital Afterlife” that can help you consider what your digital legacy should be and set it up according to your final wishes.
What do you want done with your email after you die? Many people want a relative to login and send a message to all contacts with their news of their passing.
Should your Facebook page be closed or converted into a “memorial page”? How much money do you keep in Paypal, and who should get it when you die? How about your digital photos stored on Flickr? Do you have a blog or website that may need to be closed down? These and many other questions are worth answering before you go.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 5 Sep 2012
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Do You Have a Digital Estate Plan? (Posted: 5 Sep 2012)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved