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.


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

Eradicating Memories – Corporate Responsibility of Digital Legacy

6 year old Jennifer Atkins was just like any other teenager; she liked to use email, faceebook, twitter, tumblr, and blog. She was taking the fullest advantage of the digital age. What set Jennifer apart from other teenage girls was that she was battling a hard war against a disease since she was 12. Jennifer not only discussed her life as a cancer patient – the triumphs, defeats, but also tried to be a normal teenager interacting with friends and family over the internet. The story of Jennifer does not end happily as she passed away in November.

With her passing left her family with much sorrow and anguish, but they tried to move forward and find relief from Jennifer herself. The family had hired a computer expert to use Jennifer’s laptop to find all her passwords so they could relive the life of their family member. Once the computer expert had successfully gotten access to the computer and passwords Jennifer is family began exploring their loved one is life. They found poems, inspirational messages and even some deep and disturbing information. Yet for the family this was more peaceful and a way to never let go of their loved one.
Unfortunately for Jennifer is family the networks that Jennifer had used to communicate and leave the messages they read began to catch wind of what they were doing. Thus beginning the slow process of shutting down Jennifer is accounts, and killing any memories of Jennifer that the family had left.

The issue, sites such as facebook, tumblr, twitter, yahoo, and blog sites had issues with what the family was doing as it went against their terms of services. These sites are very conscious of what new and prospective users might think. If new users thought that these sites could give families access to personal files they may shy away. This might be especially true to people who are estranged from their family. Facebook does give you the option to close accounts down or turn a decease person is page into a memory page (as long as no one logs into the person is account). Yahoo on the other hand will terminate and delete files in their new term user agreement – anyone signing up for yahoo agrees that once dead their account will be deleted.

It is this corporate need to stay protected that caused Jennifer’s family to lose the remaining memories of their daughter. No matter what Jennifer might have wanted, could not matter because the terms of services now days are focused to stop anyone, including families from getting access. Jennifer is family may never getting to know her daughters final thoughts beyond what they had little time to read. This just goes to leave the question, do you have access to your own digital legacy when you sign up for third party sites and are you ready to lose it all and leave nothing for your family if you die? 

Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

Prepare a digital legacy locker

We used to have shoeboxes to store small items of great value. This means that you could do the same for your digital treasures. Some online companies have taken the lead in building virtual shoe boxes, preventing you the pain of setting the hardware, software, communication you’d need. Can’t make sure you have two copies  of your data in two separate places (in case of accident to the first copy) ? They will. There are plenty of resources online concerning the management of your digital goods after your departure. They are focused on three main axis: managing a memorial, they also help you on planning the future and split of your assets, and finally to prepare a last message, on different channels.

You will find a more complete list of online vaults services at the end of this ebook, in the bonus section. In the meanwhile, you can have a quick audit of the service you need. Depending on your estate size, you may require between megabytes to terabytes of storage.

Digital planning
Digital planning

Payment can also be a factor to consider. The services providers can propose either to store your shoebox for a monthly, a yearly fee — or for a one-time payment. For some, you won’t have to worry, since services can be free. However, price is not everything. You are going to give extremely crucial data to a third party. Would you rather deposit your life in a costly swiss vault or at your weird neighbors?

A last point to consider is that some services can also provide support to your grieving family once you’ve left — and this is also can be extremely worth the extras.

Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

eBook: table of content.


I. Introduction

II. Good practices

III. Steps to follow: an audit

  • 1. Do an online cartography
  • 2. Remove what you don’t use
  • 3. Cloud what you can
  • 4. Update a password list
  • 5. And do it regularly

IV. To be prepared if sh*t happen

  • Prepare a will executor
  • A trendy alternative
  • Prepare a digital legacy locker
  • Do you want a physical locker ?
  • Prepare your data flows today
  • Write out instructions for each package
  • The Poor Man solution
  • Get to know more

V. Bye

  • Beware !
  • Thanks!
  • Long live the King (or Queen)
  • A service checklist

List of services // digital legacy tools 

Death policies of your the different services you may use