Scientific American posted an article a couple days ago titled “How to Manage your Digital Afterlife“ that’s well worth reading. Salon re-posted the same article today, just in case you can’t get to the original article.
I posted a blog article over three & a half years ago titled “What happens to your online accounts when you croak?” in which I discussed the importance of providing access to all of your online accounts & activities to your loved ones or next-of-kin, and how you might go about doing that. The Scientific American article above covers an entirely different aspect of death, in particular, how “your online persona and possessions can help assuage grief over your passing,” and the following:
In the modern world, however, another echo of us exists that will outlast our physical existence: our writings and records in the digital realm. Our digital “selves” are composites of mementos such as images on Shutterfly or Flickr, books on e-readers, and our musings and correspondence on e-mail, blogs and social-media accounts. This full array of data deposits, legal experts say, is your digital legacy.
The increasing importance of our online identities adds a new layer to grief and mourning. Growing evidence suggests a person’s contributions to the cloud can be dear to mourners and, because they are easily accessible, potentially lasting and interactive, can help them cope with the loss. Yet many of us have given little thought to what will happen to our online accounts after we die.
Most of what I wrote 3 1/2 years ago is still applicable, because our legal system has yet to establish a coherent system for governing the inheritance of digital assets. If you leave it to chance, you may have little control. Only six states have laws that allow next-of-kin access. The article states:
The lack of legislation means that the ownership of your profile can revert back to the company who owns that site after your death unless you specify otherwise.
Although you could specify in your will what you’d like done with your digital life after your death, the article also recommends:
creating a locked paper document or secure database that has passwords and security questions for your e-mail, banking and other online accounts so friends and family can access or deactivate your profiles, notify e-mail correspondents of your passing, and take care of any financial concerns.
Possibly more important than your own digital afterlife, especially if you’re an old fart like me, is the digital afterlife of your children. I know personally that I’d like to have access to my child’s online persona should something happen to him. (You know… to help assuage my grief? Yeah! That’s it!)
Now… how to go about convincing my son that it’s in his best interest, too???
… and may the force of the U.S. government shutdown NOT be with you!