Earlier this week, I was waiting for the plane to reach 10,000 feet and killing time by reading American Way.
In it was an article about e-state planning, or preserving your digital legacy for after you die.
How many of you have thought about this? I mean, seriously thought about what happens to your email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, Pinterest, Posterous, blog, website, on and on and on accounts after you die?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a friend who has died and then tweeted me a couple of days lately. Clearly he had scheduled tweets or Tweet Old Post installed, but it’s still extremely jarring for those of us still on earth.
And, as it turns out, there are legal and ethical pitfalls around not having your online you taken care of when you die.
Let’s set aside the obvious brokerage and bank accounts that should be included in your will (along with usernames and passwords stored in a vault like Legacy Locker). Most of us have partners, spouses, or family who already know that kind of information (unless you have a secret account in the Bahamas).
And let’s assume you’re not Stieg Larsson and have a fourth book of the Millennium Trilogy nearly finished, but you die before the manuscript can be handed over to your publisher. Do you really want your estranged family fighting your common law wife over who is the rightful owner?
Those things are pretty obvious and, while morbid, something you really should be considering.
But I’m not talking about the obvious things. I’m talking about your digital assets.
Jessica Northey jokingly posted on Facebook a few week ago that she was looking for someone to manage her Twitter and Facebook accounts in the event of her untimely death. Of course, I volunteered, which set ablaze a list of fun things you could say (“Man! Michael Jackson really is white!” or “I expected chocolate and rainbows up here and all they have is Pabst Blue Ribbon”).
For those of you with substantial online business interests (myself included), the stakes are very high. Even if we own domain names, these all expire and someone could easily take advantage if you’re not here to renew.
Maybe it’s not a big deal to you and your online legacy can die with you (or a few days or weeks after you), but if you want to preserve your blog, website, or any other assets (if only so future generations know what it was like living in 2012 before flying cars), this is something to get going, morbid or not.
Get it written into your will – who will manage the accounts, what you want done – and make sure that person knows where to find the most recent username and passwords (which you’ll have to update every time you add a new digital asset or change your password).
Hopefully Jessica takes this advice and I’m soon the heir to her accounts.