Manage your digital afterlife

Manage your digital afterlife

Manage your digital afterlife

Click here to view original web page at Manage your digital afterlife

Have you ever thought about the fact that your ‘digital estate’ may incorporate just as many items as your material belongings? Everything from music, photos, accounts, social media profiles and attempted memoirs rest on the cloud. That’s a lot of personal stuff to manage upon one’s death, much like a house full of cherished possessions.

These days, there’s just as much need for a ‘digital executor’ as there is for one in a traditional sense. Here’s a look at how to manage your digital afterlife.

Consider your wishes

First thing’s first, what do you want to happen with your accounts when you die? Much the same as your Will, deciding on this beforehand saves your family and friends from any doubt about your wishes. For example, do you want your social media accounts deleted or continued, perhaps for business or memorial purposes?

Have a think about all your accounts, what they contain, and the best course of action for either continuing them or shutting them down. This way, you can leave instructions as to how you’d like them managed. As an added bonus of being prepared, this is a great way to clean up your ‘digital estate’ now, as it’s easy to forget just how many unused or ineffective accounts we have!

Give someone your passwords

If there’s someone you absolutely trust, giving your login details to them is by far the easiest method of ensuring your wishes are carried out, whether that’s to keep or delete accounts. This is particularly true for social media sites, as even family members aren’t given access to passwords.

This makes it easy for someone to delete your accounts, update them and keep an eye on them in case of spam or hackers. Don’t want to give anyone your passwords right now? Research password management services that let you appoint a nominee who’ll gain access to your passwords upon request, in the case of death or incapacity.

Research the options for different social media platforms

Depending on the social media platforms you use, different rules apply to account deactivation and their ongoing use. First of all, make sure family or friends know which accounts you have and what you’d like done with them. One of the most popular options is to have an account memorialised, so the content remains visible to those it was shared with in the first place.

When you nominate a legacy contact on Facebook, through the Settings and Security tabs, that person can respond to friend requests and add posts to your profile. You can change the nominated legacy contact at any time. It’s possible to memorialise Instagram accounts, however, they can’t be changed. Twitter allows for deactivation, but no one will be able to gain access to the account unless you’ve given them your login details.

Make a detailed list of your digital accounts and devices

Along with social media, and presuming financial and insurance accounts will be in the hands of a power of attorney, you could have accounts including:

  • Email addresses
  • E-readers
  • Shopping accounts
  • Websites and blogs
  • Copyrighted materials
  • Video sharing accounts
  • Online storage accounts
  • Subscription accounts
  • Domain names

Keep a record of them and forward this to the appropriate people, including logins and passwords so they can be easily deactivated or managed. This includes digital assets that may require passwords to access, such as external hard drives, tablets, smartphones and digital music players. With the information about everything ‘digital’ all recorded in one place, it’ll be easy for friends and family to manage.

Back everything up

Whether you view it as a shame or a fantastic convenience, many of us don’t have photo albums anymore, let alone handwritten letters. Consider compiling cherished memories and backing them up on a hard drive, specifically for this purpose. This way, you don’t run the risk of anything becoming lost in the cloud, in the case of complications with retrieving passwords or information.

Source: Clientcomm library

Important note:
This provides general information and hasn’t taken your circumstances into account. It’s important to consider your particular circumstances before deciding what’s right for you. Although the information is from sources considered reliable, we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete. You should not rely upon it and should seek qualified advice before making any investment decision. Except where liability under any statute cannot be excluded, we do not accept any liability (whether under contract, tort or otherwise) for any resulting loss or damage of the reader or any other person. Past performance is not a reliable guide to future returns.Any general tax information provided in this publication is intended as a guide. It is not intended to be a substitute for specialised taxation advice or an assessment of your liabilities, obligations or claim entitlements that arise, or could arise, under taxation law, and we recommend you consult with a registered tax agent.

Any information provided by the author detailed above is separate and external to our business and our Licensee. Neither our business nor our Licensee takes any responsibility for any action or any service provided by the author.

Any links have been provided with permission for information purposes only and will take you to external websites, which are not connected to our company in any way. Note: Our company does not endorse and is not responsible for the accuracy of the contents/information contained within the linked site(s) accessible from this page.

Tech startups are getting involved in the funeral business

Tech startups are getting involved in the funeral business

Tech startups are getting involved in the funeral business

Click here to view original web page at Tech startups are getting involved in the funeral business

I’ve been writing a fair bit about death in the past few months—not to say I’m an expert, but I quite like the idea of qualifying myself as one. Have you ever wondered what should happen to your social media profiles after you die? Or even what the best way to prepare yourself for death is? Well, I did. But now, in the midst of the rise of death wellness, another surprising trend is appearing—tech startups are getting involved in the funeral business. So what exactly am I talking about, and is this whole death trend getting a bit ridiculous?

Coeio is probably one of the most famous tech startups in the funeral business. Remember when former Beverly Hills 90210 actor Luke Perry died last year? Shortly thereafter, his daughter revealed that the actor was buried in a biodegradable mushroom suit from Coeio. The ‘infinity burial suit’, although suit might not be the best way to describe the strange-looking black bodysuit, is made entirely of mushrooms and other small organisms, and was designed to help decompose remains into nutrients that return to the earth.

Coeio’s mission is simple: to reduce dead people’s environmental impact by cleansing the body of toxins that would otherwise have seeped into the ground by feeding them to fungi, all this with a $1,500 (£1,140) suit. For many, the price for an eco-friendly decomposition might seem over the top, but the fungi suit seems to be one of the cheapest options the funeral market has to offer.

When pop star Prince died in 2016, his body was cremated and his ashes were put in a personalised urn—a mini replica of his house in Minnesota—designed by the 3D printing company Foreverence. What about James Doohan, also known as the actor who played ‘Scotty’ in the original Star Trek, who died in 2005? Celestis, a Houston-based company that specialises in sending urns into space made three attempts before succeeding and sending his ashes into orbit. My point is, the funeral business has proved itself to be very creative (if you can afford these kinds of extravagances).

From creating a personalised tombstone to transforming your ashes into a diamond, you can almost do it all. And there’s a reason for it—according to research conducted by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), cremations and funerals are big businesses in the UK, with the traditional funeral market making £2 billion a year.

As taboo as the topic of death can be, it seems that things are changing, and rapidly. In a market that has forever been dominated by old-fashioned funeral companies, tech startups now see an opportunity to offer new solutions for lower prices to people who may not afford traditional burials in the first place. Not only do burials and cremations hurt the environment, but they also cost a lot of money. Surprisingly, being able to afford your own death (and what comes with it) is harder than what I had expected.

According to a SunLife research about the ‘cost of dying’, meaning the price of a basic funeral plus extras like the send-off and professional fees, it has had a 3.1 per cent increase in just one year and a rise of 42 per cent since 2007. In 2019 in the UK, the average cost for a standard funeral is £4,417. As a result, in the UK, low-income families struggle to even afford a funeral.

The funeral market is booming right now, and tech startups getting involved in it is proof that the way we proceed with funerals needs an update. But as much good as this can mean for the planet, this should also shed light on how absurd the reality is: many people can’t afford to die.

Our newsletter is free.

Sign up and start saving for you funeral.

How I learned to live forever

How I learned to live forever

Say goodbye to having to die.
Say goodbye to having to die.

When my grandmother passed away this year, I was devastated. She may have been in her late 80s, but her sunny personality and boundless energy made it seem like she’d would probably just live forever.

My grandma was what you’d call a “silver surfer.” From the moment she inherited her daughter’s old laptop, she embraced the internet like a digital native. It wasn’t long before we were helping her set up a Facebook profile which she used to happily spend hours sharing cute animals videos and writing us sweet messages ALWAYS WRITTEN ENTIRELY IN CAPS. I gave up explaining to her that this amounted to constant shouting. She liked it that way.

A few months after she’d passed away, I was a bit shocked to see her picture pop up in my notifications, reminding me that it was her birthday. I hadn’t forgotten, but it saddened me to imagine other family members whose grief was still very raw receiving similar messages. I had thought—perhaps naively—that since Facebook knew enough about my life and habits to bombard me with targeted advertisements it would also know my grandmother was no longer with us. But the bots didn’t have a clue.

I looked up the procedure to report a death to Facebook, and requested that her account be “memorialized.” This means that nobody can log in to the account again, but her posts remain visible to the people they were originally shared with, and friends and family can continue to share memories on her timeline. I wanted to digitally preserve the memory of my grandmother.

After making my request I almost immediately received a response from someone in Facebook’s community operations team asking me to send them her death certificate. Their response struck me as strange and insensitive—like I was making it up for some reason. Since I didn’t have that document (my grandmother lived in Brazil and I didn’t handle the funeral arrangements), I argued that they should be able to verify her passing through the evidence available on their own platform. Facebook eventually agreed, but I can’t say it was a particularly pleasant process.

Technology is currently challenging our conceptualization of what it means to live—and die.“The tech industry is not really up on death,” says Stacey Pitsillides, a design lecturer at the University of Greenwich who is a PhD candidate in the field of data contextualization in digital death. Since starting her research several years ago, Pitsillides says she’s witnessed a remarkable shift: People are becoming increasingly eager to immortalize personal experiences online, just as I had felt after my grandmother’s passing.

This observation prompted her to set up Love After Death, a panel showcased at FutureFest in London to help people explore how technology is becoming integrated into new forms of creative expressions around death and dying. I met Pitsillides at FutureFest, a festival of ideas sponsored by innovation charity NESTA, to discuss the concept of digital legacies.

Technology is currently challenging our conceptualization of what it means to live—and die. Pitsillides believes that technology and design will play an increasingly important role in the process of morning, which she calls “creative bereavement.” “By creating a bespoke legacy agreement, it merges the concept of a design agency with funeral director,” she said.

To illustrate this, Pitsillides started by taking me through a questionnaire that asked me things ranging from the practical (which loved ones should be informed of my death, and would I like to setup a database of music, art, or poetry to be used at my funeral?) to the weird and outlandish (would my friends like to do an online vigil through live webcasting where I could be present via hologram, and how about having a memorial implant or tattoo?)

But wait—holograms? Memorial implants? Was this for real?

In the future, yes.

Death by Design

“You could have a surface-level or below-skin digital tattoo that could be matched to that of a loved one,” Pitsillides explained. Using simple technologies, you could add content to these digital mementos throughout your life and then have them activated after your death. This activation could either be triggered by the executor of your will—over 19 US states have already put forward laws to recognize the deceased’s digital legacy as part of their estate—or we could evolve AI systems to recognize cues when this should happen. At that point, certain content could become available to the people you’d predetermined, depending on the stipulations you left in your digital will.

It’s basically the futuristic, high-tech version of wearing half of your lover’s heart-shaped locket. These tattoos and implants could even be programmed to trigger only in the context of certain events. For example, when walking past the special spot where a now-passed husband proposed to his wife, his widow’s digital tattoo could change color or bloom into the pattern of her favorite flower, and “their” song could start playing on her phone. Or a father could still “be there” to deliver the speech at his daughter’s wedding via hologram, or greet the arrival of his first grandchild with a pre-recorded message.

An increasingly popular service is using 3D printing to create personalized mementos for your friends and family using human ashes.While these memorialization usages are still conceptual, the technology itself is already fairly mature. For example, we already have technology that allows for smart epidermal electronics to collect and record information about users, reacting to this data in a wide variety of programmable ways: Think of IoT devices like Dexcom that continuously monitor glucose levels for diabetes patients, allowing them to track their blood sugar via apps linked to wearables like the Apple Watch. Instead of being focused on what our minds and bodies are doing in the present moment, these tactile technologies could help us build and enhance connections with people both during life and after death.

As more people embrace the idea that death in the digital age is not just about looking back at the past, they will begin to realize that it’s just as much about the future. We’re already seeing people grapple with this concept in terms of what happens to our bodies after we die. Nowadays your ashes can be turned into building blocks for a coral reef or a beautiful fireworks display, but there’s a whole other after-world emerging courtesy of technology. For example, an increasingly popular service is using 3D printing to create personalized mementos for your friends and family using human ashes.

The Talking Dead

Since such a large percentage of our lives and interactions are now conducted online, we are constantly forced to reassess our meaning of self and identity. Is our online identity the most accurate reflection of our true selves? And, if so, can it “live” independently from our physical bodies?

The answer is potentially yes. The connections we build and share can—now quite literally—take on a life of their own. For example, websites like LifeNaut offer services that allow you to create a “mind file” that supposedly enables future scenarios around reanimation through “downloading” your memories to a robot or clone vessel of some sort. We might not yet be at the stage where robotics and AI enable the Black Mirror scenario where life-like replicants of loved ones can be created from their social media profiles. But it’s no exaggeration to say that, for better or for worse, our digital footprint already outlives our biological self.

“We are moving toward a society where the dead are not banished but remain present in our lives as sources of guidance, role models, and as an embodiment of particular values and life lessons,” Pitsillides said.

But is that what we really want? The ability to live forever through technology raises difficult questions such as whether it is our memories that make us who we are, whether our loved ones would accept this “new” version of us, and who should control consent to make these kinds of decisions after death. This kind of permanence may be appealing for some, but for others the possibility of a digital presence continuously and independently evolving is quite disturbing.

Most of us avoid thinking about our own mortality until it stares us in the face. As someone who spends most of my time online, I’m unsettled by this idea of not being in control of my online persona once I die—even if I wouldn’t be in a position to care, at that point. But having experienced the enduring joy that my grandmother’s Facebook memories have brought to our family, it makes me think that my digital legacy is something worth preserving. And now I have the first steps to know how to do just that.

You can follow Alice on Twitter at @AliceBonasio. We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com.

How Dubliners deal with death

How Dubliners deal with death

Death is part of the human condition but how we manage it is always evolving. The authors of a new book chart rise of garden cemeteries, undertakers and crematoriums

The establishment of garden cemeteries at Glasnevin (1832), Mount Jerome, above, (1836) and Deansgrange (1865) meant that most funerals required transport, leading to the emergence of the undertaker
The establishment of garden cemeteries at Glasnevin (1832), Mount Jerome, above, (1836) and Deansgrange (1865) meant that most funerals required transport, leading to the emergence of the undertaker

What can a study of death tell us about society? While death is one of the constants of life it is as susceptible to trends as any other part of life. It is tempting to say that we have sanitised death in twenty-first century Ireland and that with a decline in practices such as wakes, removals and wearing mourning clothes, the process of bereavement is shorter and our engagement with death briefer.

As the vast majority of people now die in hospitals we have less engagement with the bodies of our loved ones and the responsibility of preparing them for death falls to professionals. This is perhaps why we turn to digital memorials to mourn our loss and create a public display of bereavement. Recent research into attitudes to death, burial practices and memorials in Dublin over five centuries shows that change is not a twenty-first century phenomenon.

Fear of dying and the pain of bereavement come to all of us, as much today as in the past. They enable us to share an emotion experienced by our ancestors, and indeed by most humans who ever lived. But do we really feel the same as they did about death? Do we behave in the same way or are our responses shaped by the context of our own times? The changing social, political, medical and technological circumstances in Dublin since 1500 have produced an intriguing range of responses to death, burial and remembering.

The historical context and individual circumstances of death are equally important. Poorer Dubliners buried in the city’s crowded graveyards in the seventeenth century did not expect their families to mark the grave with a stone, while their social superiors were interred indoors beneath engraved slabs which paved the church aisles. The practice of marking ordinary graves grew in the more prosperous eighteenth century and became a social expectation among the middle class a century later. Today, the indignity of leaving a grave unmarked could bring shame on a family. So strong is this desire to mark a final resting place that, following a cremation, a “gravestone” or memorial plaque is erected even though there is no grave.

The individual circumstances and broader context combined in 1918-19, when more than 2,500 Dubliners died during the Spanish flu outbreak. The city’s doctors and cemeteries struggled to keep up with certification and burial. Thousands of families felt the individual pain of bereavement brought about by global events. Two years earlier the bereaved families of executed rebels struggled to cope with shattering personal loss and national celebrity status – both equally unwanted.

Such notable deaths happened amid the constant daily stream of “ordinary” deaths, burials and remembering that are part of life. The management of such a regular event has evolved over time. Before the expansion of the suburbs mourners might follow the coffin on the short walk from the family home to the parish graveyard, where the sexton had arranged to open the grave. As medical science advanced, however, people trusted to hospitals in their final illness. So when the inevitable happened the family might face a problem of transporting the remains some distance to their parish churchyard for burial.

When Dublin spilled beyond the canals from the 1840s this logistical issue became more common and a commercial solution emerged in the form of funeral undertakers. The establishment of garden cemeteries at Glasnevin (1832), Mount Jerome (1836) and Deansgrange (1865) meant that most funerals required transport. Some elite funerals in the previous century had used upholsterers acting as “undertakers” to build elaborate settings for sombre, draped catafalques, but now the general public demanded more practical arrangements. Firms such as Fanagans, Corrigans, Nichols and others offered a range of services from basic transportation of the remains to supplying the coffin, mourning coach and flowers.

The Nichols family operated livery stables around Lombard Street, hiring horses and carriages to the city’s merchants, day-trippers and visitors. The company’s archives show the gradual evolution into funeral undertaking; in 1857 they first advertised this aspect of their services, in 1865 Nichols were listed as undertakers in a Dublin trades directory and in 1890 they opened a coffin-making factory. Repeat business across generations of Dublin families, and good business practice, ensured that careful records were required and – importantly for historians – were preserved. Such seemingly specific commercial archives can tell us a great deal about life, death and business in Dublin since the nineteenth century.

Dublin’s reliance on horse-drawn transport is evident from these records, demonstrating that not only were livery stables a basic necessity but reminding us that the work of farriers, saddle-makers, coachbuilders and other specialist trades kept hundreds of families fed, not to mention the feed suppliers, bloodstock dealers and the scavengers who kept the streets clear of horse manure.

The arrival of the motor car and the telephone were as important to undertakers as to other businesses. To see their early use itemised in account books shows how precious these technologies were and the progressive attitudes at work. Changes in mourners’ requirements and expectations also appear in these ledgers. Where the earlier entries might record a hearse and pine or oak coffin, the typical list lengthens as we move into the twentieth century. A mourning car (or perhaps two) for the family, flowers ordered by those unable to attend the funeral, an organist to play in the church, death notices in local and national newspapers and memorial cards with a photograph all became part of the standard funeral.

The opening of the city’s first crematorium at Glasnevin in 1982 brought further changes to the funeral service and to the undertaker’s business, urns and plaques replaced coffins and headstones. With a fourth crematorium opening by the end of 2016 it is not surprising to learn that less half of all funerals in the city end at an open grave.

New technologies and changing social behaviour have altered the presence, or manifestations, of death in other ways. Questions arise over social media profiles when a person dies; detailed help-pages tell you how to adjust your profile settings on Facebook in preparation for your absence, other websites give tips on using a Facebook profile as a memorial wall. To prevent your loved one from continuing to appear on Tinder is straightforward if you know their password, but what about email accounts, websites, domain names and online storage accounts you may own?

A “digital estate” plan is recommended, in which you set out your wishes for your online assets after death. But perhaps the change brought by new media is not so great. The ease with which people have taken to the RIP.ie site shows that the power (and appeal) of the death notice in the paper, or the announcement in church, function just as well online.

We may have had enough centenary events to last a lifetime, but this year reminds us that death and bereavement still take centre stage in Irish life. Not only have we used the centenary to reflect on the lives of the 1916 leaders, but we have used it as an opportunity to review and reflect on our progress as a nation. These anniversaries can remind us not just what we have lost, but how much we have changed.

Grave Matters: Death and dying in Dublin, 1500 to the present by Lisa Marie Griffith and Ciarán Wallace is published by Four Courts Press, at €24.95

This site lets you control your social media profiles after you've died

This site lets you control your social media profiles after you’ve died

DeadSocial_Profile
Say hello to your future social media account.

DeadSocial.org

Nearly one-third of the world’s population has a Facebook profile. That’s 2.2 billion users. What will happen to all those profiles after people die? What will happen to yours?

Tech Insider spoke with Dr. Mark Taubert, a UK expert in grief, social media, and end-of-life planning. He says people need to consider what will happen to their social media accounts after they’ve passed.

“Not only do you have to think about your physical possessions, but you also have to take all the digital bits into account,” he said via email. “Who can access your account, emails, photo albums, music files, who gets the passwords, what happens to all your images and videos?”

Enter: DeadSocial, an online service that helps people prepare the “digital legacy” that will remain online after they’ve died. Dr. Taubert is on the app’s advisory board and is one of its most ardent supporters. How do you use a social media app after you’ve died? DeadSocial has a simple system:

Essentially, while still alive, you write and schedule messages that will be pushed to your social media accounts after your death.

While the service is free, Dead Social has distinct enrollment periods. During enrollment, they allow 10,000 users to subscribe to the service. The last enrollment period was in February and the next is coming “late 2016.” In the meantime, the site offers alerts for the next enrollment period.

When you’re granted access, you’ll create a profile on the site. It actually looks quite a bit like a Facebook page:

DeadSocial_Profile
From your profile, you’ll have several options.

DeadSocial.org

The first is to write your goodbye messages. It might be hard thinking of things to say from beyond the grave. But Dr. Taubert offered the example of, if you died of heart disease, you might schedule messages every six months reminding friends to get check-ups. You may leave specific messages for loved ones’ birthdays or for a spouse on your anniversary.

d0eadsocial_profile1

In addition to writing and scheduling posts, you’ll assign an executor who will “activate” the messages once they feel your loved ones are prepared to view them. It’s an important decision. The executors (you can assign up to six) are the ones who contact DeadSocial to tell them of your passing. While they can’t alter or view the messages before they release them, they are responsible for administrating them. DeadSocial itself never releases or views the messages themselves.

d0eadsocial_profile2

DeadSocial also encourages users to draft a social media will, which details your specific wishes for your online profiles and accounts after you die.

“What if one family member, after your death, insists that your Facebook profile is deleted, and another wants it to be memorialized into perpetuity?” Dr. Taubert asked. “If you haven’t expressed a prior opinion, then you won’t get a say. It has already caused huge legal rows and split families and friends.”

d0eadsocial_profile3

DeadSocial

Given that streaming services like Twitch and YouTube can provide lucrative careers for content providers, who owns digital content after users’ deaths may become a seriously contentious issue in the future.

Outside of the digital legacy service, DeadSocial has a number of resources for the living and the recently bereaved: end-of-life guides for how to prepare Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts either for your death or what to do with a loved one’s after their passing. They offer advice on funeral arrangements and your end-of-life options. You can also leave a “goodbye video” for everyone.

It’s all exceedingly morbid, but Dr. Taubert points out that a carefully prepared social media presence will last generations and will be the way your descendants will connect to you in the future.

“Can you remember the full name of your great-grandmother?” Dr. Taubert asks. “Probably not. But in future, that sort of information will only be a few clicks or taps away, on a memorial page.”

Sure, DeadSocial is creepy. But it’s time we engage with the other use for our social media pages: a lasting image of us for the people we’ve left behind. For the first time in history, we’ll be able to take control of how we’re remembered.