Printed in The Wall Street Journal on January 5, 2013, Life and Death Online, Who Controls a Digital Legacy? is a raw story that validates the meaning and sense of loss that could come if no one has access to your digital legacy.
At minimum, you should have documented your usernames and pass codes and told someone you trust where to find them. If you have done that, I urge you to go back and note which ones pull from credit cards or other online payment accounts. Help those who would step in to help by at least organizing your online estate.
A more robust exploration of this topic was done in The New York Times (2011) in Cyberspace When You’re Dead. It provides a variety of examples exploring both the impact of being able to continue to access the accounts to the added grief to those who lost access. While it does discuss some online options to protect your digital legacy — I continue to beat the drum to organize all of your materials in one place!
In a related story, several states seem to be discussing how to deal with digital estates. A New Hampshire bill would give all access rights to the executor. I have talked to several Estate Attorneys who are now working with clients to identify a “digital executor” who may be different from the traditional executor role. The same issues will be faced by both executors — where are all your personal, financial, online and household records and details?
Have you ever had to view the profile of a friend on Facebook or LinkedIn that passed? It’s disconcerting. Even worse, my husband told me about spam emails he’s getting from a friend who died over a year ago. Apparently the spammers have reached a new low. It won’t take you more than 20 minutes to create a quick list that could mean a lot to those around you. Preached.