Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

Go lean

A part of management is to make sure that you know what exists, what is in your control, and what is that you are not using any longer. In this case, you can also list the services you are not using anymore. Think of it as a spring cleaning !
The same thing goes for your mail box. Look at the crap that’s accumulating there: spams, never read newsletter, old mails, …  Once again, just take 5 minutes to look at those never read newsletters. Open one, find the “unsubscribe” link, repeat and voilà! You’re set and you’re declustering your inbox.

Why should you be spending efforts there? The answer is simple: you don’t want to give a huge, unsorted heritage. Plus, I guess it’s going to be worth it for you in between!

Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife


During your audit, you will be able to find pieces of documentations, scans, bills, and so on, that you could store safely in one place. For example, you could want to download a few sensitive mail attachment and store it into a cloud storage option, with a proper folder nomenclature. Why would you do so?

Simply for this : you’ll avoid questions like: “Is this in the mail account? On the mobile? On the smartphone? Or on a hard drive? Which USB key?”. Moreover, having your data stored on one place can avoid to use different passwords, encryptions, medias. Just be sure that your password for this cloud storage service is safe enough.

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

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

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.