One of the unusual aspects of the world in which we live is that whilst you can die in the traditional sense of the word, your on line identity continues indefinitely. The extent of your digital footprint will obviously depends on how often you use the internet and what you use it for. However we are now finding that with those in generation X (1961-1981) and to a greater extent generation Y (1982-1995), no longer are their memento’s stored in their bedrooms or under the house but are often now held on line. It is unusual for a traditional photo album to be found (unless maintained by the parents) but rather a virtual album on a social networking site, and diaries have been replaced by blogs, tweets and sms messages. We are living in a brave new world and we need to adjust what we do with our estate planning to reflect this.
For those unaccustomed to the world of social networking or the internet this can be quite confronting that a deceased’s life cannot simply be switched off as has happened in the past. An online identity continues. Many of the major internet sites have now developed policies as to what happens to a deceased’s digital footprint in the event of death. For example Facebook has now created a “memorial state” for profiles of deceased users which deletes features such as status updates, and only allows confirmed friends to continue to view the profile and post comments on the page.
This is an issue which many people neglect but in the event of death registered domains, websites, contents of personal in boxes, information on social networking sites, pay pal, e bay and other sources of online revenue all need to be taken into account. The size of each digital footprint is different and an interesting exercise is to “google” yourself and you will be surprised with what you find.
There have been a number of services that have been set up on line that upon notification of your death, they will modify, transfer or erase your online accounts, sending a final email and passing on important files to the nominated beneficiaries. Some of the more prominent ones include,
– www.legacylocker.com was set up to act as an online executor and provides a digital safety box for storing all of your online passwords, and passes on the relevant details to your online beneficiaries.
– www.deathswitch.com is an online service that emails various people advising of your death with a pre-prepared email for example to former mistresses, ex-workmates etc. This service is activated if you fail to respond to their regular email updates.
– Virtual Eternity is a website that allows you to create an online cartoon based on a photograph of yourself together with your own voice. This site allows you to write the script, and develop your own story.
– www.lifeensured.com is a website that manages your online life after you pass. This organization allows you to define what you would like to happen to your online accounts, which email messages should be sent and where should your various online files be held.
As each of our digital footprint increases this area is going to grow in importance. Over the course of our lives many of our most valuable possessions will appear online including articles, photo’s, videos, and examples of your professional work. The internet has replaced the attic or storage area under the house and if you fail to consider this issue you will lose control of your online assets.
This is a new area and expect further developments in this area as death remains the only certainty in life. If you are not sure how long you will live and you are brave visit www.deathclock.com