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 first of a five part series of articles on digital death and your internet afterlife.
The old saying goes “the only things that are certain in life are taxes and death” and as much as might find it uncomfortable, we should ask what will happen to our online presence when we die? Do you have any idea what will become of your juicy emails, logs on your computer of your intimate chats, privately shared photographs, messages on forums where you had friends, your relationships, and even your properties like domain names and valuable avatar names. And who will notify your online friends that you have passed on?
For some of us the most valuable things we have may be related to our internet life. Now is the time to think about and plan for the disposition of our Internet lives after the inevitable occurs and we pass from this earthly existence. After all, it is only a matter of time isn’t it?
So let’s take a look at all of the things we should consider. This series will take a look at:
- Why you should be concerned
- Considerations for planning
- Death notification and related services
- Legal and other issues
Although the law has some pretty well defined rules for wills, it has not quite caught up with all of the nuances of how to handle the artifacts of the proliferation of online activities of individuals. As a result planning can be somewhat convoluted with the need to assess whether an individual online account, activity, or asset is subject to terms of services, whether it is subject to disposition under a will, whether after death court action may be required to enforce the wishes of the deceased, and whether commercial services can be used to fill the gaps.
It would be helpful to have a uniform set of laws in each jurisdiction that supersede individual account terms of service with clear rules for how to handle online accounts, activities, and assets. Perhaps in the future this will occur. But in the meantime a more complicated process greets anyone who wants to plan for the disposition of their online persona(s).
Please understand that I am not offering death planning counseling or services and have no financial interest in any of the death services that will be discussed in this series of articles. Comments are welcome.