Digital death is still a problem. A widow’s battle to access her husband’s Apple account

Leslie’s Digital Legacy

It is not a surprise to most when we hear that the life we are living today could end any minute. We have all come to expect death at some point. With this being said what we do in life defines us and what others will remember us by, but what all that we worked for could be taken away in the blink of an eye? This is the sad case for Leslie Harpold.

In the early 2000’s Leslie Harpold was an up and coming writer, graphic artists and editor. She was the total package when it came to freelance artists. Flooded with praise and respect Leslie was making a household name for herself in the online world. Then in 2006 the unimaginable happened. At the age of 40 Leslie had passed away leaving her family, friends, and clients in disarray.

With her life taken away and no way to come back Leslie had only her digital media left to carry on her digital legacy. Unfortunately for Leslie the story gets worse. Leslie was young and had never thought about death, she never thought about how she would be remembered and what to be left open to the public to view if she had passed. So on the horrific day that Leslie passed all of her digital legacy was automatically given to her parents. Maybe it was a coping mechanism, maybe they wanted something to not be seen, or maybe they just down right did not want to share their daughter is memory with the world. Regardless of the reason Leslie’s digital legacy was taken away.

Friends of Leslie had offered her family to take control of her websites with the clause that they would touch and alter anything. Just keep the website intact so others could experience the joy that Leslie had brought to the world. Unfortunately any sort of discussion with the family on this matter would go into a definite circle. They wanted no means of Leslie is past to be displayed. In the end no one could fight what the family wanted, they were automatically the ones who had control and not any of Leslie is friends.

 

Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

A poor man solution

The quick and easy solution is to have your password list stored on a DropBox account, in different password vaults. The vaults can be linked in an instruction file to specific beneficiaries. Each of these vaults will have a separate password, that your digital executor may not have. I do use KeePass for this, but there are also examples of using other software such as 1Password.

The DropBox account will be linked to your digital executor so that, in proper times, the executor can retrieve the password of the DropBox on a specific safe-deposit box, so that the executor send the vaults to the appropriate beneficiaries, with a reminder of the password. You can be creative, it should be something that you and the beneficiary have in common: the name of the first teacher, using a birthday, using the name of a common boss… You have plenty of options!

An advantage of this is that the key to your assets are stored on your side, and you’re not losing your control over them. Process to update your lists is simple: you just edit it on your computer and that’s already put in safety.

Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

Writing instructions to your executor

Chances will be that you won’t be here anymore to tell your executor what to do with each part of your estate — I guess. Remember, your executor will have no way of knowing how you feel unless you spell it out in advance, so you will have to write a document clearly stating what to do with each item.

 

Take the example of Facebook — no, I’m sure you have an account over there. In 2009, Facebook explained the reason behind creating a memorials for people who left. These memorialized accounts can no longer be found in Suggestions or found by non-confirmed friends, and are a place for friends to share memories in remembrance. Sensitive information are removed, and nobody will access the account anymore. That’s fine, but without preparation about what you’d love to remove or to keep, potential issues can arise. Moreover, you could decide of what you’d like to be remembered for : videos, some text if you used to write, and so on. That’s also a sensitive option to avoid your facebook ghost Liking pages or updating statuses, like some do.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, if you decide to keep resources online, you may have to engage financial assets in it as well. If you want your blog, portfolio or videos online, you’ll have to pay a service provider for it, or make sure that your executor will set up a mechanism to cover those costs. Free hosting solutions can be a solution, if you are not afraid of losing your legacy if their terms change.

It may sound stupid, but once again be sure that this executor will have an easy access to each piece of the puzzle : will, password lists, instructions. It’s also a good to idea to give power of attorney to your executor, to be sure he or she will have all the necessary support from the legal point of view.

What is Digital Estate Planning and Why Do I Need it?

Write out instructions for each package

Chances will be that you won’t be here anymore to tell your executor what to do with each part of your estate — I guess. Remember, your executor will have no way of knowing how you feel unless you spell it out in advance, so you will have to write a document clearly stating what to do with each item.

Take the example of Facebook — no, I’m sure you have an account over there. In 2009, Facebook explained the reason behind creating a memorials for people who left. These memorialized accounts can no longer be found in Suggestions or found by non-confirmed friends, and are a place for friends to share memories in remembrance. Sensitive information are removed, and nobody will access the account anymore. That’s fine, but without preparation about what you’d love to remove or to keep, potential issues can arise. Moreover, you could decide of what you’d like to be remembered for : videos, some text if you used to write, and so on. That’s also a sensitive option to avoid your facebook ghost Liking pages or updating statuses, like some do.

Digital planning
Digital planning

Another thing to keep in mind is that, if you decide to keep resources online, you may have to engage financial assets in it as well. If you want your blog, portfolio or videos online, you’ll have to pay a service provider for it, or make sure that your executor will set up a mechanism to cover those costs. Free hosting solutions can be a solution, if you are not afraid of losing your legacy if their terms change.

It may sound stupid, but once again be sure that this executor will have an easy access to each piece of the puzzle : will, password lists, instructions. It’s also a good to idea to give power of attorney to your executor, to be sure he or she will have all the necessary support from the legal point of view.

Is Your Digital Life Ready for Your Death?

A physical locker

If you have more digital assets which you own, you can also consider getting specific hardware designed to protect digital information. A perfect example would be a hard drive using complete encryption — without the proper password, nothing can be retrieved, and your assets are perfectly safe. You just have to be sure that your executor does know where the storage device is, and has all the keys to unlock it. The cons are simple: the locker must be physically accessible, undamaged (when sometimes defects appear over time, rendering your assets inaccessible), and you will have to physically access it to update it.