UPDATED: Mar 26, 2020
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We live in a digital age. Our calendars, to-do lists, contacts, and journals live on our phones, computers, tablets, and watches. Most people don’t even give this digital life a second thought; it’s just the way things are today.
But living in a digital age also means dying in a digital age. Think about it for a minute. What happens to those Instagram pics, Netflix movies, and Spotify playlists you’ve collected? They don’t magically go away, do they? And what about bank accounts, email accounts, loans, and recurring subscriptions? Surely they don’t just disappear.
What Happens to Your Online Persona When You Die?
Millions of people have some social media presence, and often it’s spread among several different platforms. It’s challenging enough to manage these accounts when you’re alive, let alone dead. Consider this: Facebook will have more dead users than living users by the year 2098, according to Hachem Sadikki, a statistician at the University of Massachusetts. Not sure about you, but I find that a bit creepy.
[clickToTweet tweet=”972,000 US-based Facebook users will die in 2016. (Source: The Digital Beyond)” quote=”972,000 US-based Facebook users will die in 2016. (Source: The Digital Beyond)”]
Most social media companies keep user accounts active unless they are closed/deleted by the user, someone with the user’s login credentials, or a designated executor. The primary reason it’s so difficult to have these accounts removed is users strongly prefer privacy over access to their accounts. Whether you want your social media profile to outlive you is your choice, but I doubt any of your family or friends want to receive birthday reminders for you every year after you’ve passed.
Financial accounts are also difficult for your loved ones to manage when you’re gone unless they are joint accounts. In the absence of precise instructions in the form of a will or trust, distribution of the assets in personal accounts may be at the court’s discretion through a process known as probate.
Create a Plan
Take the time to organize your digital assets and create a wish list, and you will save your loved ones the trouble of having to sort it out on their own. Consider the following items when building your plan:
- Research digital death and afterlife services. – Companies such as Capsoole, Afternote, and Afterword provide services such as digital asset planning, online memorials, and posthumous messaging.
- Buy term life insurance. – It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I recommend term life insurance as a part of any end-of-life plan, digital or otherwise. Aside from funds to cover common expenses such as burial and medical, life insurance can also provide support to help your family resolve outstanding financial matters. It can even help sustain their income while they spend time taking care of your final wishes.
- Create a will or trust. – These essential documents spell out exactly how you’d like your affairs handled after you die. You can designate an executor for your estate, detail the distribution of property and other assets, and even name guardianship of minor dependents.
- Set up a password app. – Services such as LastPass and 1Password can store all of your login credentials, credit card info, passport, driver’s license, software licenses, and more in one convenient place. Also, you can set up emergency access for a loved one in case you’re not able to act on your behalf.
Communicate Your Wishes
You have a plan, now share it. Let people know how to manage your affairs after your death. One way to do this is by creating a digital journal. Apps like Day One, make journaling fun and simple. Record daily activities, goals, moods, successes, and failures. And use one to list crucial information for your loved ones.
Confide in your life insurance beneficiary. This person will likely be the primary executor of your estate and will handle things like closing your accounts, transferring funds, paying off loans, settling estate issues, paying estate taxes, distributing property, disposing or selling assets, and more.
Remember, your passing will likely be a traumatic and emotional time for your loved ones, and it may be hard for them to make rational decisions. Help them as much as possible by making your wishes known now. Also, leave good records for them to reference.
I like the idea of combining a digital journal with a password app. These two tools should provide everything your family needs to make sure your digital life either lives on or ends according to your wishes.