Happy Halloween Lucky 6 readers. With this most creepy holiday our team got thinking about all things scary and in particular – what happens to your online profiles when you die?
It has been estimated that within 50 years there will be more dead Facebook users than live ones (assuming the social media site is still operating).
It is easy to forget that what exists on the Internet is likely to be around for a long time after you die. Any images or information about you will be easily searchable for generations to come, and social media profiles may remain ‘live’. How would you feel if a social media site pinged you a reminder to wish a recently deceased loved one a happy birthday?
The statistic raises an important issue that most Internet users have not yet faced. What will happen to your Internet presence after death? Or, perhaps more pertinently, what would you like to happen? There may be some online activity you wish to pass on to family and other loved ones such as bank details or information stored in the Cloud. Other, shall we say, more private activity may be best dying with you.
There are currently no substantial legal procedures in place to protect your online presence while you are alive – still less for when you die. Digital legacies add a whole new layer of legal angst.
So how do you manage your digital legacy? Clearly, like writing a will, you must face this issue now before it’s too late.
New companies – known as legacy executors – are springing up to help people deal with legacy matters by acting as repositories for their customers’ usernames and passwords. This makes it easier for family and loved ones to access digital assets after the user’s death, assuming you have willed it to them.
Similarly, these companies can be instructed to close down the accounts that you don’t wish to pass on.
Facebook claims to have over 800 million daily users, thousands of whom die every day. How many leave behind ‘live’ accounts that their family find difficult to erase?
Your attitude may be: I won’t be here, so I don’t care. But as the issue throws up more intractable legal problems for executors and those left behind, this will become a major headache in the coming years.
However, Facebook is making progress. Their death policy states:
“We will process certain special requests for verified immediate family members, including requests to remove their loved one’s account… [but] requests will not be processed if we are unable to verify your relationship to the deceased person.”
Verifiable documentation includes a birth certificate, death certificate and/or proof that you are the lawful representative of the deceased or his/her estate. With the family’s consent, Facebook may also transform the profile into a memorial page for e-mourning of the deceased.
If you spend a lot of time on Google+ you may wish to acquaint yourself with a feature called Inactive Manager Account. By activating it, users may shut down or transfer their account to a trusted person after a given period of time.
But other organisations/online accounts may never be shut down if your family don’t know you hold them, or are unfamiliar with the particular software used.
Act now. You can take steps to ensure that your digital legacy lives on according to your wishes.
Make a directory of all your online services
- social media
- e-mail accounts
Store your Online Directory with your Will and Letter of Wishes
- Use the Online Directory to specify what you want to happen to each account
- Online bank accounts – These should automatically shut down once the normal bank account is closed. To be on the safe side, specify in your Letter of Wishes that your online account should also be deactivated.
- E-mail accounts – Request to have these closed unless they are shared.
- Social media pages – Choose between closing down the account or turning it into a memorial page.
- Professional directories – Request that these profiles are deleted.
- Online shops – Close these accounts so that your sensitive banking information and personal details are deleted.
- Regular online payments – Cancel monthly subscriptions.
How would you like to manage your digital legacy? Are you going to include it in your will?
We believe it is also important to remember that it is not all doom and gloom. Going forward into the distant future all these online profiles will make for a most interesting insight into our daily lives. At Lucky 6 Marketing we see our social media profiles as being a diary and look forward to these diaries keeping our memory alive for centuries to come.
Happy Halloween everyone!