A good, if slightly macabre topic, for Halloween. How will you handle your digital legacy?
Because the Internet is relatively new, and the population who engage on the web are relatively young, few of us have yet encountered the stress of cleaning up a digital legacy post-mortem. When you die what will happen to your digital accounts? How will they be closed down? What messages will relatives and friends receive to inform them that you have passed away?
This is a very real issue. I have encountered friends who buried parents, distributed the estate and began to return to a semblance of normality, only to be informed on an online site that a birthday was approaching and they might want to purchase a gift. The grieving process can be set back months.
When you prepare your will you should document every email and internet account you have. Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Tumblr, Stumbleupon, think of all the social media sites you are a member of. Then think of all your email accounts. What do you want to do with them when you die? This should be part of your instructions to the executor of your will.
For instance, I don’t want my Facebook account shut down until my family have a chance to copy all the photos I have stored in there. My family may not want to close it down at all. I don’t really want my wordpress site closed. I see it as something that can remain after I depart. But I may want to close it off with a final post, a post-mortem epitaph.
Solicitors & Lawyers need to update their procedures to take account of these kinds of instructions. As things stand many solicitors don’t have a brilliant grasp of what is involved. I can see a role for specialist lawyers who understand the digital world, and who know how it can be navigated in a sensitive manner.
When someone passes away there should be an option on Facebook/Amazon/Tripadvisor etc to move the account to a setting that indicates that this person has passed away. This should turn birthday reminders into something more appropriate and perhaps capture the anniversary of the passing of the deceased.
The digital footprint of a person has the power to succeed them. Let’s say that I campaign for a charity, maybe Cancer Research. After I die I have the power to continue to influence charitable giving when an anniversary occurs. My family and friends may value this opportunity to make a difference as a form of remembrance. For non religious people a charitable contribution can often take the place of a prayer or a mass as a form of remembrance.
Websites and online accounts have the potential to become shrines to the memory of people. What digital legacy do you want to leave when you depart this world?
Crossing the bar; Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.