“Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not there, I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow, I am the diamond glints on snow.”
Mary Frye wrote that in 1932. And as we consider those thousand winds and diamond glints today, it could be akin to our digital presence. Life for you or a loved one may be gone, but the digital afterlife lives on.
Because people don’t like to think or talk about mortality and consider tweets and texts and the online world ephemeral and intangible, they naturally don’t consider their online presence living after them. But it does and will, for the 1.23 billion of us who are on Facebook alone.
What happens to our digital afterlives is becoming an increasingly urgent philosophical debate. How do you want to manage your digital footprint – the collection of memories that encapsulates you – after you’re gone? And what if you’re unexpectedly left to do the same for a loved one? Where do you even begin?
Like everything else in the digital world, policies and procedures and regulations usually happen after the fact. And all too often, as in the real world, so does digital estate planning.
A 2013 research report by U.S. Trust, the private wealth management arm of Bank of America, sheds some light on the rather gloomy state of digital estate planning – even for the wealthiest among us, who are most likely to have wills:
- More than six in 10 (63%) high net worth individuals report they have not outlined wishes and instructions for their digital assets.
- Forty-five percent have not organized passwords for accessing digital accounts and files.
A 2012 survey by online legal service Rocket Lawyer serves as a wake up call for Boomers in particular. It found that 41% of Baby Boomers aged 55-64 do not have a will, let alone a digital one. Mirroring the U.S. Trust study, it also found 63% did not know what would happen to their digital assets if they die.
Since protecting our digital assets is extremely important at AVG, I’m proud to announce that we’ve created a free eBook Dealing with Digital Death that offers a starting point for tackling the issue. It offers considerations, recommendations, resources and guidance. From how to tackle the sensitive issues around what to do with social media profiles and blogs to creating memorials – as well as practical information on digital estate planning and how to delete retail accounts.
Here are my three takeaways:
- Make a will! If you already have one, good for you! Add a digital codicil, which is a simple document that amends your will, to include digital estate planning.
- At the very least, make a list of your digital assets, passcodes and avatars, if you have them.
- Share information and help educate your friends about the for need digital estate planning.
Sorry to be a bit morbid, but as death is a part of life, the digital world is now a part of the afterlife – and all those diamond glints.