by Webnme2 on Sep 6th 2010
What happens to your online identity, online property, online friends, and online accounts when you die?
Disclaimer: These articles are not intended as legal advice. For legal advice you may wish to consult your planning and estates attorney. The information here may be helpful to you in asking questions and making the right plan for your assets.
This is the third of a five part series of articles on digital death and your internet afterlife.
Planning and References
Planning for what to do with your internet presence after your death starts with an inventory process, moves on to a series of disposition decisions, identifies who will act on your behalf, and documents your wishes.
- Inventory – This is a starter list of places to consider when developing your list of online assets and activities. There may be more or less categories for you depending on your online activities. The main thing is to try to assembly in one place a complete list of all of your online accounts and assets.
- Email accounts and passwords
- Forum accounts and passwords
- Social media website accounts and passwords (See our listing of social media – drop-down menu under “social media”)
- Domain name registrars
- Stock and brokerage accounts
- Online memberships and organizations
- Email Listserv memberships
- Gaming community memberships and related websites
- Financial websites like PayPal and banks
- Auction and other trade websites
- Online data storage including documents, photos, videos and audio records
- Online stores, some of which may have lines of credit tied to your account
- Online services like video rentals, audio books, entertainment, paid subscriptions to content, etc.
- Disposition Planning
- Decide what you want to have happen to each item in your inventory
- Are there things that should be deleted?
- Are there things that have value that should be included in a will?
- Are there limitations imposed by the service provider’s terms of services that have already set out what happens when you fail to renew, fail to continue to pay, or pass on?
- Who should be notified when you pass on?
- Friends in your address books for email?
- Members of forums where you have participated?
- Email distribution lists and listservs?
- Friends on social media sites and in emails?
- Deciding Who Will Handle Your Online Persona(s) and Assets
- You need to think about who will be knowledgeable enough to handle all of your online persona(s) and assets – this may be one or more persons depending on your situation
- You need to think about what must be handled by an executor or legal representative in a will – disposition of property/items of value
- You need to think about what can be handled by a trusted friend or relative in instructions for actions to take place after your death – notifications
- Contact Sam and ask him to send a message to a listserv to let everyone know of the passing of John
- Contact Julie and ask her to post a message to the xyz forum to let other members know of the passing of John
- Talk to your attorney about what you plan to do to make sure that your assignments will not create legal issues later when your will is probated.
- Documenting Your Wishes & Safekeeping
- Digital wills and death services are not a replacement for A Last Will and Testament. You need to have a will for the disposition of anything of value and in some cases to assure there is legal authority for the disposition of your online accounts and assets.
- Your inventory of accounts and passwords will become public if it is part of your will, so you may want to work out with your attorney how you will safeguard that information.
- You should write down your disposition instructions for emails, documents, and other online accounts and work with your attorney to determine which must be included in your will and which can be handled by separate instructions.
- You should write down the notification procedures to be followed including who is to contact whom and for what purposes. Essentially you will develop a list that includes all of your online friends and acquaintances and how they should be notified.
As you begin your personal planning process, you may want to look at these online resources to get a broader understanding of the issues:
- Death and the Internet: How your online identity can live on after death – Interview with MyWebWill.com
- Death, Remembrance, the Internet and Immortality
- Death Switch Sends Out Emails Upon Your Demise, Lifehacker.com
- DigitalBeyond.com – Why bother with the digital afterlife
- DigitalBeyond.com – Preparing for Your Digital Afterlife
- DigitalBeyond.com – Planning for Your Digital Afterlife
- DigitalByeond.com – Digital afterlife predictions for 2010
- Prepare for digital afterlife, CNN
- Scott Brown on Managing Your Digital Remains, Wired Magazine
- Virtual Estates Lead to Real-World Headaches, New York Times
- What Happens to Your Facebook After You Die by Dan Fletcher, Time