Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

Prepare a will executor

Simple: choose a fiduciary and give him, her or them the proper power of attorney, so that they can manage your belongings.

The choice of a will executor for your digital assets, or your “digital executor”, is a critical step in the planning.  It can be an executor different from your regular will, or someone who is not in charge of your offline estate. Actually, you’d want to select someone who is very comfortable with technology, to be sure that this person will execute your orders and not make any blunder. Apart from this, it could be a good idea to find someone who is geeky enough to understand what you want, and to apply it. Finally, don’t choose someone who is too close from you. If you need to delete some materials, you don’t want your executor to fail on this because it reminds him or her too much of you.

The person in charge may or may not be aware of your choice, you can arrange the name on your will — but the key and lock to the assets will have to be in a separate list, to be sure you can update it regularly, when changing your passwords. And if you open an account for another service? That’s going to be the same. Just open your lists, add the account, save the file and voila!

“If you haven’t made arrangements in advance, those assets are going to pass to your next of kin. Maybe that’s not what you want—maybe you want to spare the spouse the embarrassment or the pain of it to keep your legacy intact.”

Another advantage of selecting only an executor and to have a separate list will enable you not only to manage your accounts, but you will be able to manage the beneficiaries. An access can be revoked only by changing the password of a file, and saving you the trouble of a trip in the attorney’s office.

“If you have an estate-plan document book, devote one page of it to this. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy,” Ms. Hays says. “If you want [an account] to be ongoing or serve as a memorial, you need to make that known to the person you ask to take care of this. Otherwise, they’ll probably just shut it down.”.

A digital executor can be used to prevent any issue around your death. If you own an online store, like an eBay account, an unscrupulous competitor could use your obituary to make your different accounts closed. Emails could be accessed by anyone smart enough, providing a proof of your death.

Finally, a good thing to do is to integrate the name of this digital executor into your “regular” will — to avoid any potential contestation.

Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

Update a password list

Why would it be important to be prepared to give away your accounts information? Different emails providers have different policies. Google allows your next of kin to access your correspondence if they produce a proof of death ; Hotmail does the same, and asks the next of kin to show they have power of attorney. YahooMail.. simply erases your mail history.

Hence, it may be easier for everyone to get access to your mails and execute your will concerning the future of these assets.

Along with the usernames, passwords and emails potentially linked to the accounts, be also prepared to write down the security questions. Your loved ones may be or may not be the one knowing ALL of the details contained in the security questions, leading to an easy recovery of the accounts.

However, do not hesitate to segregate your different passwords in separate, password protected, lists, depending on the beneficiary of your goods. You can then store the different lists on a common storage medium (online storage, physical medium, …) and to limit the access to this resource only to your executor. It’s the same as putting different boxes with different locks for different beneficiaries, waiting in a global safe which is only accessible by you and your executor, but where your executor does not own the key to individual boxes.


Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife


During your audit, you will be able to find pieces of documentations, scans, bills, and so on, that you could store safely in one place. For example, you could want to download a few sensitive mail attachment and store it into a cloud storage option, with a proper folder nomenclature. Why would you do so?

Simply for this : you’ll avoid questions like: “Is this in the mail account? On the mobile? On the smartphone? Or on a hard drive? Which USB key?”. Moreover, having your data stored on one place can avoid to use different passwords, encryptions, medias. Just be sure that your password for this cloud storage service is safe enough.

Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

Go lean

A part of management is to make sure that you know what exists, what is in your control, and what is that you are not using any longer. In this case, you can also list the services you are not using anymore. Think of it as a spring cleaning !
The same thing goes for your mail box. Look at the crap that’s accumulating there: spams, never read newsletter, old mails, …  Once again, just take 5 minutes to look at those never read newsletters. Open one, find the “unsubscribe” link, repeat and voilà! You’re set and you’re declustering your inbox.

Why should you be spending efforts there? The answer is simple: you don’t want to give a huge, unsorted heritage. Plus, I guess it’s going to be worth it for you in between!

Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

Do an online cartography

First of all, you can use the checklist provided in the bonus part of this ebook. The list is obviously non exhaustive, and your specific interests may not be covered there. However, feel free to use it to map a first version of your digital footprint.

Another thing is that with different personalities, you may have more than one account for each service provider. Your professional twitter account can be different from your personal. be sure that your different lives do not overlap one another. It can be professional, personal, … you may want to respect the privacy of different alter egos even after your departure.

Ok, you have used the list. There’s another way to check the accounts you have, but may have forgotten. You know, the digital cluster you do have spread everywhere online. A simple way to identify the clutter you have forgotten (remember those accounts and goods, it may be a good idea to think of the pertinence of keeping them online) is to go to your favorite search engine, and to locate your email,

With only this step of listing your accounts with passwords, you can take less than an hour to avoid lots of frustration and questions for your beneficiaries. And I’m not talking about the hassle of going to the tribunal to get the documents to grant the access to your accounts, depending on the service providers policies. The more technology develops, the more services are going to be used. It means that both assets and accounts will grow in numbers and size.