Digital Estate Planning: Your Social Afterlife

Digital Estate Planning: Your Social Afterlife


Nobody really likes to think about passing on. But there is a certain amount of business that needs to be taken care of to ensure your treasured possessions end up in the right hands. You may have written a will or an elaborate estate plan, but have you thought about what happens to your digital profiles and their content?

We send hundreds of messages on our social accounts, connecting with friends and family and posting photos of places we’ve gone, outfits we’ve worn and fun we’ve had. Our digital accounts become a scrapbook and journal of our lives.

So where will that all go when you go? And who, if anyone, will get access to it? It depends on whether you plan.

Some simple steps:

Keep or Close?

Decide what you want to have happen to your accounts and their content. Would you like the accounts to be kept alive or have them shut down? If they are shut down, do you want the content preserved? (If so, you probably should start backing up what you post now.)

Appoint a Trustee

You can create documentation with all of your accounts listed with your usernames and passwords and appoint a trustee(s) to whom you give permission to manage your accounts according to your wishes. Keep in mind, the terms and conditions of some social media accounts consider it a violation to give your username and password to someone else. Be sure to review your options for each site carefully. T&Cs are usually found in the help section.

Put together a list of all of your digital passwords and leave it in a safe place for your trustee. Just don’t put your passwords in your will – it is a public document!

Notifying Others

These days, we probably have more of our friends and family on our Facebook page and other social sites than we do in our phone address book. You might want to think about whether you would like your trustee to notify others of your demise by posting announcements on these sites.

Online Solutions

Facebook Memorial Page – Facebook handles a user death by turning a profile page into a memorial page. A family member or close friend reports the death to Facebook and will be required to provide proof, such as an obituary or death certificate. The page of the deceased will be set to private and alerts will no longer broadcast from the page, including appearing in “People You May Know” suggestions. The page will only be visible to those already connected with it. Connections will be allowed to post memories and condolences on the page’s Wall. Some families may choose not to report the death to Facebook and leave the page as it was, with photos and interactions available to be seen publicly as a testament to a full life.

Google’s Inactive Digital Account Manager – Set this up and your Google account will be automatically deactivated and deleted if it is inactive for a certain amount of time.

If I Die This Facebook app allows you to record a video to post to your Facebook connections after your demise. You appoint a trustee to launch the video when the time comes. This is your chance to have one last say.

My Wonderful Life – A site that allows you to create an online book with your desired funeral plan, leave letters for loved ones and assign “angels” to help carry out your wishes. It saves the necessity of having those awkward conversations and it’s all outlined in writing, so grieving family members know exactly what needs – and what you would like – to be done.

Your Digital Afterlife – this book by Evan Carroll provides a step-by-step guide to the whys and hows of setting up your afterlife arrangements.

With all of our passwords to track and remember, don’t you wish there was an online safety deposit box where you could keep them and pass them on to your trustees? Cirrus Legacyand LegacyLocker are two companies that have responded to the need to offer “digital safes.” You authorize who gets access to your passwords.

When There Isn’t a Plan

There are many reports of a family’s struggles to gain access to the social accounts of a departed relative.  Terms and conditions of individual sites can be strict roadblocks, and reporting a death can sometimes lead to automatic deletion of an account. Family members may never get a chance to keep content as mementos of their loved one. It can add more stress to an already difficult time.

Don’t let this happen to you. Make a plan, put it in writing and add it to your will or estate plan so you can ensure you’re in control of your digital presence, even after you’re gone.

Is AI The Key To Eternal Life?

Have You Planned For Your Digital Legacy?

Have You Planned For Your Digital Legacy?

As estate planners, we often receive confessions from our clients that they had a tough time getting the motivation to have their estate plans drawn up. There seems to be an inherent inertia which affects most people when they turn their mind to the morbid topic of their own death, and are forced to ask the question: “what will happen when I am gone?”

One of the common complaints we hear is that the work required to obtain the various pieces of information necessary in order to prepare an accurate and effective estate plan is daunting. The daunting nature of the information gathering phase of an estate plan is often exacerbated when we ask if they have thought of cataloguing their digital assets, to which they invariably reply: “what is a digital asset?”

Digital assets are assets which form part of your estate (which may or may not have a determinable value), but which are not usually accessible or transferrable by anyone other than you, because of the restrictive terms and conditions that are attached to the third party service providers who host such digital assets. Common examples of digital assets include your Google, Outlook, Facebook, iTunes, Twitter, Instagram and DropBox accounts and their contents.

The problem which typically arises when we discuss planning for digital assets is that it requires the individual to give consideration to the extent of their digital presence, and to decide what should be done with their various digital assets upon their passing. To date, our experience has been that the vast majority of people do not have an accurate understanding of the extent of their digital estate, i.e. they do not have a running list of their various accounts, passwords, and contents, making inventorying and planning somewhat difficult.

Fortunately, as part of our estate planning services, we offer assistance with the identification and curation of digital assets. We find that once we sit down and systematically identify key digital assets and a person’s wishes, the digital estate plans nearly write themselves. Once an individual has considered who they would like to name as their digital executor (often a different person than the person named as executor and trustee), the key elements of an effective digital estate plan are nearly fulfilled. Unfortunately, very few people are aware of the value of their digital assets, whether economic or sentimental, and as such many people pass way without giving thought to the digital assets they have left unclaimed in the ether.

While many Canadians still do not give priority to their digital estate plans, a 2011 survey conducted by McAfee in the U.S. revealed that the average online user has more than $37,000.00 USD in under-protected digital assets. The U.S. Government has been paying attention to these numbers and now recommends that its citizens create a “Social Media Will”, which we also advocate for our clients who have precious digital assets that they wish to preserve. We also recommend this for our clients with digital assets they may wish destroyed upon their passing.

Creating a simple document containing your various online accounts (financial accounts excepted for security reasons) with their passwords, security questions and other data which would allow a digital executor to carry out your instructions, is an effective tool for dealing with digital assets. However, to avoid potential breaches of security, it is advisable to consider keeping the list in a secure offline location (such as a safety deposit box). Another option would be to make use of one of the various password management software suites, such as 1Password, provided that your digital executor has access instructions to such software. While the use of password management software is an incredibly practical and easy to implement solution, any online solution, regardless of the encryption and safety protocol, will be vulnerable to online attacks. We recommend that people consider this before making use of such software.

A final step in creating an effective digital estate plan, and one that is often overlooked, is confirming the terms of service for each digital content host where the relevant digital asset is located. A number of articles have recently focused on Facebook’s controversial memorializing policy for its deceased users’ accounts, but the bigger concern relates to legal uncertainty arising from the user’s personal representative (or digital representative) accessing the deceased’s account. Such access is frequently contrary to the terms of service for most digital content hosts, and therefore potentially in contravention of legislation in certain jurisdictions, notably the U.S.

While we do not currently have any legislation in British Columbia governing access rights to the digital assets of a deceased, legislation is being pushed through a number of states in the U.S., e.g.  Delaware, granting access rights to digital assets for the family of the deceased. While some people are applauding this legislation, ask yourself whether you would want your parents or siblings having access to your private emails and social networking accounts upon your timely (or untimely) demise? Depending upon your answer, you may now understand the benefit of creating a digital estate plan.

Aside from privacy concerns, many of our clients also wish to try and preserve their online audio, visual and textual assets for future generations. For almost every generation after the Baby Boomers, family heirlooms such as photos and letters are overwhelmingly becoming stored online, leaving the question as to their treatment a pressing concern for those concerned with their digital legacies.

‘Til Death Do Us Part: Your Digital Presence After Death

‘Til Death Do Us Part: Your Digital Presence After Death

Have you ever puzzled what will occur to your electronic mail and social media accounts when you die?  Nope, neither have I… however Yahoo definitely has.

‘Til Death Do Us Part: Your Digital Presence After Death



While most people who find themselves getting old write their wills, determine their last preparations, and arrange their funds, Yahoo appears to maintain the remaining.  A new service, Yahoo Ending, has been launched by Yahoo Japan to assist their giant aged inhabitants handle their digital presence after demise.  The service prices about $M.seventy seven/ month.

Prior to demise it helps customers with funeral preparations by estimating prices and trying to find cemeteries. After loss of life it will possibly cease automated invoice funds by the Yahoo Japan pockets service and family members can go to a particular bulletin-board web page for the deceased and submit memorial messages.  Yahoo Ending not solely conveniently erases all knowledge in electronic mail accounts, but in addition sends a remaining message to as much as 200 folks when your loss of life is confirmed.  It all could sound a bit morbid however if truth be told- fairly handy.

In an interview with The Japan Times, Yahoo Japan spokesperson Megumi Nakashima talked about doable higher growth in Yahoo Ending’s companies, permitting the deceased to handle their put up-life affairs on non-Yahoo Japan providers.

“For instance, we’re considering of partnering with credit score-card firms,” Nakashima stated, “in order that the person can configure Yahoo Ending to inform such firms to shut out the person’s account.”

With the development of know-how in our technology such companies might turn into essential to all these digitally concerned.  By taking duty of our on-line accounts earlier than dying we will guarantee our family members will not must “care“ for our digital wants.  It could appear to be a untimely measure only for an electronic mail account nevertheless it may stop dangerous phishing and identification theft.  Would you make investments on this service for lower than $24/12 months?  Or may you care much less about your digital fame put up-mortem?  Given this chance, it might be helpful to put money into deleting your on-line previous… earlier than it’s too late.

Yahoo Japan Launches Service to Manage Your Digital Presence After Death

Yahoo Japan Launches Service to Manage Your Digital Presence After Death

Yahoo Japan launched a new service uniquely designed to serve the country’s large population of elderly people, by tidying up their digital footprints after they die.

Called Yahoo Ending, the service enables users to close their Yahoo Japan account, and have a final message sent to up to 200 pre-registered email addresses of family and friends, once their death has been confirmed.

In addition to erasing any data in the account, Yahoo Ending — which costs 180 yen (about $1.77) per month — can stop automatic bill payments made through the Yahoo Japan wallet service.

Loved ones can also visit a special bulletin-board page for the deceased, and post memorial messages. Prior to death, the service even helps users search for a cemetery, and can estimate the cost of funeral arrangements.

There are multiple U.S. services that handle a person’s digital footprint after death, but as third-party operations, a lack of trust could make some hesitant to adopt these services. With Yahoo Ending, however — which is operated by a company the user already trusts with his or her data — such concerns will likely be allayed.

For its part, Facebook has been monitoring the post-life digital-presence space, and even modified its policies in February to offer memorial videos of deceased members. Similarly, although not specifically targeted at the deceased, Google’s Gmail service offers a tool called Inactive Account Manager, which lets users automatically delete their account after a set time-out period.

In an interview with The Japan Times, Yahoo Japan spokesperson Megumi Nakashima said future updates of the service may go even further, allowing the deceased to manage their post-life affairs on non-Yahoo Japan services.

“For example, we are thinking of partnering with credit-card companies,” Nakashima said, “so that the user can configure Yahoo Ending to tell such companies to close out the user’s account.”