On-line Life After Real Life Death

I’m going a bit off the beaten track today after I saw an interesting article in Time about what happens to your on-line accounts after you die.

This was certainly a wake-up call for me when I consider how much of my life is secured behind passwords and other security features. Time reports that both Hotmail and G-mail will allow you a CD of the deceased’s e-mails, but doesn’t seem to allow actual access. Facebook will either take down a profile, or create a memorial profile that only users friends can access. Flickr will lock families out of any images marked private.

The main thing to take away from this is that each site has its own methods of dealing with the digital assets of the deceased, so this should be part of anyone’s planning for their death.

A number of sites, as described in the MSNBC article, have started to help people prepare for their death. One site, Deathswitch, which seems like a disaster waiting to happen, will send out a notice to predetermined e-mail addresses in the event you haven’t checked in on the site that week. A more reasonable system might be Slightly Morbid, which will alert your designated people, when family members let the site know.

I think in my case I’m considering including a sealed envelope of instructions along with my will for access to these accounts. In this case, a low-tech solution may be the best answer to a high-tech problem.

What are your thoughts and have you done any digital death planning? Leave them in the comments.

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