Guest post by Abena Hagan
On July 16th Yahoo Japan launched an end-of-life service called Yahoo Ending, which offers various services including farewell messages for loved ones, funeral planning, and removal of email and social media accounts.
Once Yahoo receives official notice of the subscribers passing they will delete all information stored on the company’s system and cancel the deceased’s subscriptions. Yahoo Endings will also launch a tribute site after the subscriber’s death. This tribute site will serve as a memorial space and will host user’s memories, pictures, biography, messages, video messages, and a playlist of favorrite music in the deceased’s honor.
According toThe Cultureist 2,405,518,376 people use the Internet worldwide and seventy percent of those use the Internet every day. This number has grown 566% since the year 2000.
Why are these figures important?
The Internet plays a major role in most of our lives without us realising it. We store immense amount of information from our personal and professional lives online. Our email accounts, utility bills, insurance policies, social media pages, digital albums, online bank accounts are some of the examples of our growing digital footprint.
We collect various items as we grow at different stages of our lives. What used to be a collection of stories, an archive of classic movies or a stack of letters is now digital in our growing age of technology. With the help of our smartphones, laptops and tablets everything is stored digitally. Stacks of letters are now emails, story collections are now eBooks and classic movies are now stored online. What happens to all these when the inevitable happens?
Continuous digitization and penetration of Internet in our everyday life has made our digital assets valuable. Like other valuable things, digital assets need to be managed during our life and protected after we pass away. In the absence of appropriate planning and protection, these digital assets can become an easy target for identity thieves. Identities of approximately 2.5 million deceased Americans were stolen last year and it creates a huge financial and emotional burden for people who are left behind to deal with it.
Yahoo, like many other major companies, is realizing the importance of digital legacy. The Uniform Laws Commission recently endorsed a plan to give personal representatives control of digital assets. The plan, which isn’t law until adopted and approved by state legislators, would allow heirs to access and control digital assets, unless instructions are otherwise specified in a will or other estate-planning instrument.
The ULC effort is a step in right direction, however many individuals may want more control of their digital assets. For instance, you may want to distribute your digital assets to right beneficiaries with your instructions for them. Many individuals need a comprehensive digital estate plan to deal with this problem.
The emerging state laws in the U.S. and services such as Yahoo Ending and Google’s Inactivity Account Manager are good steps in the right direction, but individuals still need to take action. I believe estate planning for digital assets will continue to become mainstream and independent organizations such as Planned Departure will try and serve the needs of this growing market.