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

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.

Who will get your iTunes when you die?

Control of a digital property – AA case

We often forget that digital property is part of our daily lifes, especially when the conditions create distance between us and the physical world. This is the case with Alison Atkins. She died at 16, of a long struggle with disease, and got more and more connected to the online due to her situation.

Because her sister could not gain access to her computer at first, then to the online services which hosted her writings, poems and pictures, the accounts have been closed one after another, like parts of her online existence getting erased.

The reason behind this is that the law, privacy law, makes it great for living users to control their information, but nothing is prepared for the death of the very same users. To make things even more complicated, these laws completly differ from one country to another. In the case of Alison, they found out a some writings that were made to stay hidden, and service providers are in their right not to disclose the communications.

A google representative mentionned that “It’s crucial to strike a balance” between families and the user’s right to privac

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.