Plenty of the funeral homes we work with host community outreach programs that include seminars and publications on everything from health and wellness topics to advice on memorial service prearrangement. And while preplanning is hugely important from both a financial and an emotional perspective, many of these presentations leave out a key consideration for today’s modern families…
Today, we all leave huge digital footprints as we use the web for both business and pleasure. We open email accounts, create passwords to log in to our financial accounts and develop rich social connections on networks like Facebook and Twitter. In the event of a death, access to this information can become a major concern for the friends and relatives of the deceased, who may need the data contained within these accounts to carry out end-of-life wishes.
The result is a field called “digital legacy management,” which seeks to facilitate the transfer of web account details to entrusted estate managers following a death. Currently, the best digital legacy management programs are all third-party tools, as most of today’s major media sites make the delegation of account details a huge hassle.
Facebook, for example, does not allow the transfer of accounts from person to person. As a result, it will not release an account’s password to the deceased’s next-of-kin. The best these people can do is to request that the deceased’s Facebook page be turned into a “frozen” memorial page – which, as we’ll discuss later on in this article, has some serious weaknesses.
Google is another major offender when it comes to the ability to pass on account information. Right now, the only feature the media giant offers for digital legacy management is itsInactive Account Manager tool, which allows account access to be delegated to others only after a timeout period – set by the account’s user – has expired.
While this feature might be useful under some circumstances, death isn’t one of them. First, the tool relies on the user to have enabled the feature prior to death, which isn’t common. But in addition, the user’s account information will only be transferred after the timeout period set by the original user has expired. In some cases, this could mean that designated contacts need to wait as many as nine months before being granted account access!
Admittedly, the handling of the accounts of the deceased is a relatively new concern, so it’s not surprising that fully fleshed out guidelines don’t exist for these scenarios. What this does mean, though, is that in the meantime, it’s in most peoples’ best interests to enlist the services of a third-party digital legacy management tool.
The following are three of the best options on the market to consider. Take a look at them and consider including recommendations to your favorite tools in your future preplanning seminars or publications!
Tool #1 – AssetLock
AssetLock describes itself as an electronic safety deposit box that allows you to collect all of the following pieces of information in one secure location online:
- Copies – Store digital copies of important documents for reference.
- Final letters and emails – Store final messages to be sent to friends and family members upon death.
- Final wishes – Record details on your desired funeral arrangements, eulogy, obituary, notifications and more.
- Instructions – Leave notes for surviving family members on how to settle your estate, when to pay bills and any other to-dos that should be recorded.
- Locations – Note the location of your wills, trusts, insurance policies, safety deposit boxes, keys and more.
- Secret info – Create a record of your online account passwords, lock combinations and more to facilitate access to important information.
Once you’ve loaded your account with personal information, you’ll designate specific “Recipients” who will receive your data in the manner of your choosing. All the information you enter will be protected by the company’s 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) program – the same security technology the US Government uses to protect highly-classified content.
Pricing: Plans range from a $9.95/month Basic plan to a $239.95 Ultra Lifetime Membership
Tool #2 – MyWonderfulLife
Where AssetLock sees itself as a digital repository for both online and offline information, MyWonderfulLife is geared more towards end-of-life planning. According to the company’s website, the service includes all of the following features:
- Leave letters to loved ones
- Document the music and writings you love
- Leave your favorite memories, and anything else you’d like to share
- Let your Angels know where all your “stuff” is, like bank accounts, wills, and other important information
- Leave meaningful possessions to loved ones and tell them why
- Make sure your kids and pets are taken care of
- Write your own obituary
- Design your own headstone
- Upload some of your favorite photos that can be used at your service
Using this service, online account login information can be stored under the “Possessions” feature. Upon death, it will be released to your “Angels” – the 1-6 people you’ve specified as being responsible for carrying out your wishes. In terms of security, information entered into MyWonderfulLife is password-protected and secured using Secure Socket Layer (SSL).
Tool #3 – SecureSafe
SecureSafe combines the concept of digital legacy management with the security of Swiss data centers to provide users with a full suite of data inheritance tools. A few of the different features you’ll find with this program include:
- Secure password management, which allows you to store passwords, PINs, credit card numbers and online banking credentials behind advanced DoubleSec security technology.
- Online file storage, which creates a single location in which to store important contracts, diplomas, account statements, insurance policies, copies of important documents and more.
- Secure mobile apps that allow you to access your stored data from anywhere.
- Data inheritance tools, which give you an automatic, secure and confidential way to transfer your personal information to your relatives, in the event of your untimely death.
Of the three programs discussed here, SecureSafe is by far the most secure. The system utilizes complete encryption, a 2-factor authentification option and confidential data storage in the same data centers that house Swiss banking accounts. You’ll pay more to access all the program’s features as a result, but it’s a great option for individuals with more complicated digital legacies.
Pricing: SecureSafe offers a limited free version, as well as “Pro,” “Silver” and “Gold” plans ranging from $1.70/month to $13.20/month.
In addition to providing information on different digital legacy management programs, it’s a good idea to encourage seminar guests and preplanning customers to think about how they want certain accounts handled after their deaths. As an example, Facebook allows the relatives of deceased users to either leave their accounts “as-is” or to convert them to memorial pages. Both options have some serious disadvantages.
If a Facebook profile is left active, other site users can continue to leave messages on the deceased’s wall – and these messages may not always be nice. Active profiles may also continue to appear in lists of suggested friends and upcoming birthdays, which may be disconcerting to users who knew the deceased in life.
On the other hand, converting a Facebook account to a memorial page means that no future changes can be made to the deceased’s wall. As a result, memorial pages do not provide a digital opportunity for friends and loved ones to share messages of support (and can result in family embarrassment if the deceased’s final messages and pictures were risque or inappropriate in any way).
A better alternative to present to your families is an online memorial wall that’s hosted on your website – like the ones offered by Frazer Consultants.
These pages allow friends and family members to come together to share memories, “light” digital candles, leave meaningful symbols and post pictures or videos of the deceased in a loving, supportive environment. The program’s profanity filter and automatic photo/video review means that nothing inappropriate will be shared, and the fact that the pages will never be deleted creates a long-lasting, meaningful tribute that loved ones can come back to again and again.