Remember, There Is E-Life After Death
You think you’ve organised everything for your estate. You’ve written a will saying who gets what. You’ve carefully laid out instructions on what to do with all your business and property holdings.
It could include Websites, Facebook, Twitter and numerous online accounts that need to be paid such as electricity, rent, phones, water and council rates. You might have a treasure trove of written works, photos, music and videos all existing on a hard drive or, as is increasingly happening, stored somewhere in the digital cloud.
They might be valuable to some people such as collectors or historians. They might be of value only to your family. Either way, if you haven’t made arrangements for someone to be told where to find them and have your access codes, passwords and so on, they could be lost forever.
Privacy of users is a prime policy for most of the companies that run internet content. Facebook won’t allow access until they see a death certificate. Yahoo! treats everyone’s account content as confidential even after death – and the only way in is with the right password. Google demands a complex ‘proof of death’ process delivered to its US headquarters before it will allow access to material it has stored on Google Documents, Gmail and Google Drive.
American composer Leonard Bernstein wrote his memoir on computer hidden behind a password only he knew – 22 years after his death no one has been able to crack the password.
He’s not alone. A British study recently found only 11 per cent of people make provisions to pass on their internet passwords after they die.
Scientists, doctors, engineers, artists, writers, lawyers, business people….anybody who stores their work on computer should make sure somebody can access it when they die.
The person you leave login details, passwords and last wishes of what to do with it could be your lawyer, executor, family or friend. As wills can be seen by many people, it might be wise to split the codes – leave part of the password with the executor and the rest with somebody else. That could all be spelt out in the will so the people involved don’t even know about it until after you die.
If there are things stored in the digital world you’d rather your family didn’t discover after you die, you might consider giving your access codes to someone trustworthy to delete embarrassing photos, emails etc.
We need to make sure our e-life goes the way we want when we make that final log out.