You need to have the Adobe Flash Player to view this content. Please click here to continue. Three years after Greg Prangley died, his legacy lives on. “We didn’t know at what point if we were going to lose my dad,” Karen Prangley said, Greg’s daughter. And what haunts […]
Do you “live” online? Who doesn’t? Whether you’re online for personal or business purposes, you have a digital footprint, and this online presence has needs of its own. In 2013, McAfee conducted a survey to try and determine the value of our digital legacy and digital assets. The results of the survey showed, the on average our online footprint carried a value of approximately $35,000 (in 2013 – no doubt more now).
Those who blog know their blog has personal value inherent in the sharing of knowledge, but what of the fiscal value of this digital asset? Is there a way to calculate the value of a blog? Yes, there is. “Blog Calculator” has created a nifty algorithm which generates a hypothetical value of your blog. The calculator asks a number of questions, which once answered does it’s magic and pops out a blog’s value.
While the answer provided by this site’s algorithm may be subjective, and open to interpretation (like the value of your car or home), it serves to demonstrate your blog is a digital asset with intrinsic value. Therefore, like any other asset, you have to consider the disposition of the asset should you become incapacitated or die.
1 – Disposition of your blog
The first decision to make is whether or not you want to keep the blog up and running if you are unable to do so yourself due to illness, accident or you’ve passed. Even if you desire this portion of your digital legacy to be shuttered, you should put forward a plan for your trusted designee to follow.
2 – Your designee
Selecting someone to handle things for you is no small task. Here at Red Folder, we recommend the designee be an individual with whom you have a great deal of trust. As they will be following through with your choices concerning the disposition of the blog.
Those who blog, and there are millions of you (e.g., 75+ million using WordPress according to Yoast) know that the administrative tail to your endeavor is long. Your instructions to your designee should contain the names of any blog-partners you currently have as well as guest bloggers, contributors or other site owners.
In addition, including the administrative permissions associated with your blog, unique to your hosting service, such as access credentials, two-step authentication, challenge questions should also be memorialized.
You will also want to detail, any monetary arrangements which involve the blog, is the blog syndicated, have advertising revenue or associated with affiliate programs. And you don’t want to forget to provide access to the social media accounts associated with the blog – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, etc. These too are a part of your digital legacy.
Rarely do we think of our online presence as an “asset,” or consider who should take over our Facebook pages, personal blogs, and other virtual accounts in the event of our death. Having a Digital Estate Plan can protect against identity theft and ensure your personal information – like photographs, documents, and conversations – fall into the hands of people you can trust.
Contact the Brooklyn office of Michael F. Kanzer & Associates, PC for guidance to ensure your digital life will live on, or die, as you see fit.
Creating this kind of plan may seem like a difficult task, but here are five steps to ensure your digital estate is covered just as completely as your physical one:
Create an inventory list of all digital assets and how to access them
For security purposes, it’s best to create two lists – one with all your account names, and another will the account passwords. This reduces the risk of an unwanted individual acquiring the document and having access to your personal information.
On this list, you will want to ensure to include account information for all social media accounts, blogs and websites, and email addresses, but also accounts that access more personal information, like online access accounts to loans, credit or debit cards, insurance accounts, or accounts that allow you to pay bills online.
Store this information in a safe place
Now that you’ve written down how to access some very important accounts and information, you’ll want to ensure it is protected from falling into the hands of someone looking to steal your identity. Store these documents somewhere password protected, or in a safety deposit box at your bank, or with someone you can trust.
Decide who will carry out your digital estate plan
Name your digital executor, or the person who will fulfill your end-of-life digital wishes, in your will. This person should be someone able to handle the sensitive information left behind, but also someone who has strong technological skills and can ensure the accounts are handled.
Choose what should happen to your digital accounts after your death
Create a list of the next steps your digital executor should take after your death. Decide if you would like your accounts to remain open, or should they be shut down.
Make sure to consider things like: What should happen to the photos on social media pages like Facebook or Flickr? Who takes control of any active websites or blogs? Do you want your Facebook page left active as a memorial?
Create a final message to share online
If you would like someone to post a final message to your friends and family after your passing, make sure to outline what that would look like. This could include a picture of you and a message to your loved ones, or a video of your life.
In this increasingly technological age, grief and the grieving process can adopt many forms. This individual experience can be further complicated by the deceased’s online presence on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, which can live on in perpetuity after their death.
Grieving online may be a new occurrence, but culturally speaking, after-death rituals are nothing new. While some may find modern coping methods in poor taste or even unsettling, they often share much in common with historical expressions of grief. For example, so-called ‘funeral selfies’ are one recent trend that many find distasteful, yet there is actually a rich history of post-mortem photography, either for remembrance’s sake or out of necessity.
When it comes to the official policies on social media sites like Facebook, memorial statuses are the preferred method of online grieving. These statuses offer a respectful reminder of the deceased, while also letting new visitors know that the person is longer living. Though this can be helpful for some users, there are a few changes that take place once a memorial page is established.
First, the family must initiate the process of memorializing or preserving the page. If the family does not have access to the deceased person’s account, this can require submitting proof to the website to establish control of the user page. Once the website agrees to memorialize the page, the profile will lose a number of capabilities. Profiles will no longer be visible in public searches, and friends will be unable to ‘tag’ the deceased with fond memories for their families to enjoy. It may also be impossible to add new friends to the page after it changes. In some instances, Facebook may delete memorial pages if they are found to be inappropriate.
Original Profile…or No Profile
Because of these restrictions, some choose to let their loved one’s original profile remain unaltered after death. Many see it as a reminder of those who’ve passed in their lives, while also establishing a place to share memories with others close to the deceased. This can be incredibly cathartic for anyone still grieving, as it affords an outlet for emotions, especially during difficult times such as the holidays. Users who prefer this method sometimes say that it feels as if the person is still in some ways an active part of their life.
In the end, handling the online presence of a deceased loved one is ultimately up to the family and those closest to the person, though in some cases the deceased may still have some say. As people become increasingly savvy with social media, more and more people are including how to handle this situation as part of their will. For those who are looking to plan ahead, the Digital Death Guide can take some of the mystery out of creating and managing a digital legacy.
In the end, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer to digital immortality, as the grieving experience differs greatly from person to person. However, one thing remains certain: technology will continue to make an impact on collective humanity, in life and in death.
Making plans for what happens to our online presence after we pass away could save our loved ones unnecessary pain and distress, say probate experts.
Research suggests three out of four people have not thought about how their family will access and manage their social media, email and online financial accounts when they die.
Lynda Monks, a senior Wills and Probate solicitor at Macks Solicitors in Middlesbrough with 30 years’ experience, warns this can store up problems for the future.
“When a loved one passes away it leaves a huge hole in our lives and so many emotional challenges to overcome,” she said. “There are also the practical issues that must be dealt with, such as sorting out financial affairs.
“In the past there would have been paper documentation to help track down all the accounts and any assets such as stocks and shares, but increasingly this is no longer the case.
“In the modern digital world we often hold many accounts with different PIN numbers, passwords and digital access codes. We rarely think to give the information about what they are and how they can be accessed to anyone else.
“This can lead to enormous difficulties for those who are left behind and can really add to the distress they are feeling at an already difficult time.”
A recent survey by The Co-operative Funeralcare revealed that 78 per cent of those who have looked after a loved one’s online accounts after death experienced difficulties, while a fifth were unable to manage the process at all.
Lynda added: “Talking about what should happen if you die before your partner or other relatives isn’t an easy thing to do, but it is very important to let someone know what accounts you hold, how to access them and what you would like to happen to them.
“As a recent survey highlighted the fact that the UK population now owns £2.3bn of Internet assets, it’s essential to leave instructions regarding your digital assets – your family could be very grateful that you did.
“Making a Will is one very practical way you can make plans for the future and make it known what you would like to happen to your assets. Another practical step is to consider your ‘digital legacy’. Many people mistakenly believe it helps if they include this information in their will.
“However, your Will becomes a public document when it goes through the probate court, which could mean sensitive information being read and exploited by fraudsters.
“A better solution would be to leave a sealed letter containing details of your online accounts, as well as PINs and passwords, along with your Will at your solicitor’s office. In this way your confidential information is only available to your Executors.
“Many of us already let our families know what kind of funeral arrangements we would like, so why shouldn’t we also make plans for our digital future as well? In today’s technological world, we need to consider the rights of access to our online life and assets.”
As well as leaving details of financial accounts and how to access them, other questions to consider include whether you would want your next of kin to have access to your social media accounts and whether you’d like a status update or online post to let friends and followers know you’ve passed away.
Social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn will all need to be closed or turned into memorial pages after your death. Facebook recently changed its policy to enable users to appoint an online executor who can maintain their account posthumously.
You should also think about what you’d like to happen to your email accounts, any digital music, photographs, films or books you own or money held in online gambling accounts.