Monday, November 22, 2010

Who is your digital heir?

Have you ever stopped to contemplate what will happen to your digital or online information when you are gone? Thinking to yourself, my spouse has my passwords and knows my accounts, so there's no issue?

You may be wrong.

According to The Economic Times, there may be rules and regulations in place that will determine what happens to all your hard work online should you die. Although the site is Indian, I think it's smart to look at what they are saying...

Think about it a moment - what activities do you participate in online or on your computer? For me, there are emails, financial records, legal and medical records, blogs, communities, photos, poems, stories, music, online banking, online bill paying, records, well - you get it. I work very hard every day as a Health Activist and I want that work carefully guarded and passed along should I die. I have carefully recorded my passwords, and my important links are stored in my computer (okay, maybe not the smartest thing to rely on).

So, what does this mean?

I assume then that, should I die, my extremely computer savvy hubs will spend a few moments mourning my passing and then go online and use my email accounts and addys to tell all my dear friends and family that I have gone. In my mind I see him some weekend later sitting at my messy desk perusing the folders while peering at my enormous monitor. I imagine him shaking his head at one thing, and smiling at another.

But he won't have a clue what to do past that point!

In my various folders are letters to friends and family that I would like them to receive after I've gone. It's a silly little thing I do when I'm feeling particularly sentimental some days. I'm okay with my hubs reading them, but does he know that I want those letters passed along to their addressees? No.

So, I need a digital will.

To create a digital will, The Economic Times tells us we must first create an inventory. The next step is to get my digital signature authenticated. Then with this information, my digital will can be created. Once created it may be stored online (complete with links) or in a more solid form. The digital will does not take precedence over your last will and testament, but is apparently designed to work in concert with it.

Did you know service providers have different policies about your accounts after your death? It's true. For example, while google may give access to relatives, Yahoo's policy is to terminate the account. Period.

What about information you DON'T want passed on?

Many people might consider what they want to live and be passed on after their death, but what about those things you want to die with you? In order to prevent someone from gaining access you will also need your digital will, or an "account guardian service" (Who knew such a thing existed?!) whose job is to keep your secrets secret by allowing you to upload all of it to their site and tell them who you want to have it. You can also opt in for an account incinerator service and upon your death *poof* it's all gone.

Last messages

There are sites that are designed to give your loved ones your digital will or last words. One of them is called The Last Messages Club.

Have you thought about what will happen to your information when you die? Have you made any arrangements to be sure that those you want or do not want to have access to your information are aware of your wishes?

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