Jul 19

Roy's Funeral

A recent family bereavement got me thinking. What would happen to this blog and all my online accounts if I died tomorrow? I hadn’t really given it much thought before and I’m sure many of you are in the same boat. It’s hard enough to cope with a family bereavement let alone sit down and try and sort out someone’s online accounts so we really should give our loved ones as much help as we can to cover this unfortunate possibility. As it stands, I’m sure my wife would be completely at a loss to know where to start with my online life. Not surprising really as she doesn’t know which online accounts I have! So let’s have a look and see if there’s anything we can do to help deal with our virtual life in the event of our actual death.

What about your blog?

If you have a blog, have you thought what would happen to it if you died tomorrow? It’s actually an asset you own and I guess the first question is would any of your family want to take it on? Better find out now and if there is someone, you’ll need to be able to get your blog admin details to them somehow after your death. Don’t forget to include domain renewal dates and blog host renewal dates. More about that later. If you’ve monetized your blog through advertising for example, the income from that may be a nice little bonus for your loved ones and that may be another reason for keeping the blog alive. So remember to pass on your PayPal details. They’ll need that to be able to remit the advertising revenue back to the family. On the other hand, if no-one is really interested in carrying on your blog, they may consider selling it to another blogger. After all, a ready-made blog may well suit someone who wants to move into blogging and bypass all the hassle of setting it up and building up traffic. What will happen to your blog when you die is summed up very nicely in this post on Daily Blogging Tips.

What about Facebook?

Your loved ones will have the choice of terminating your account or keeping it in a ‘memorial state’ which removes features like status updates and contact details and lets only confirmed friends view the profile and post comments on it. Discuss this with them. Again, they’ll obviously need your admin details whichever they choose. You may also want to arrange a farewell message to be posted in the event of your death. You could keep that with your log in details as discussed next, but make sure your digital heir knows where to find the details.

Passing on the important details after death

Bear in mind that the terms of service of most online accounts don’t permit passing them on to a ‘new owner’. Each site tends to have its own rules about who can do what should someone pass on, and executors may need to make special requests to close down accounts or access your information. For info on the policies of Yahoo, MySpace, Google and Microsoft when it comes to dealing with the accounts of deceased users, read this Educo blog post or this MakeUseOf post.

If you can pass the accounts on, first you’ll have to identify someone who would be willing to tidy up all the loose ends, probably your spouse or partner. But don’t forget to cover the possibility that you and your partner may die at the same time. If you’ve already made a Will, this may all sound familiar. Of course keeping your online admin details with your Will may be a good solution. But I can hear you say, I change my passwords regularly and add new online accounts all the time, I can’t keep changing these details in my Will. Well, if you use a username/password manager like LastPass, you only have to add your email address and one master password to your Will documents. All you account usernames and passwords are held securely in LastPass. Once your digital heir accesses your LastPass Vault, they can see all your usernames and your passwords. Another possibility I read about recently on MakeUseOf is LogAway which allows you to create a single click log in for hundreds of websites. You will have to change the master password occasionally but this is all that will have to be updated with your Will documents. Of course, you don’t have to keep your details with your Will. Any secure place will do where your spouse, partner or executor can get hold of the details when required. You could also use a service like Death Switch to email your loved one with all the details after you’ve passed away.

There are also online services like Legacy Locker and Entrustet that allow the creation of a will for digital assets. Legacy Locker’s free ‘trial account’ limits you to listing three digital assets and two beneficiaries. Lifehacker have a post on Legacy Locker here and Entrustet here. Entrustet lets you assign an heir to access your accounts when you pass away. It lets you set up unlimited password-protected accounts to be transferred over to a trusted person upon your passing and lets you decide what will happen to each account.

So don’t leave it until it’s too late. You have a great opportunity to make these decisions now. Do yourself and your family a favour and make some backup arrangements to help deal with your online world in the event of your untimely death. Drop a comment below if you have already made these arrangements and you have some advice for us.

What would happen to your online accounts if you died tomorrow is a post from Tech and Life. If you’re reading it in full elsewhere, it’s been copied without consent. Please go to Tech and Life to read the original post and many others in the archive.

Further reading: Handling computer accounts after death – Rocket Moms

Image credit: Roy’s funeral


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