Log Off in Peace – Cyber Wills and the Virtual Beyond

Reid Dickie

What becomes of your cyber presence after you die? You know, what I mean – all your passwords, login details, codes, usernames, blogs, subscriptions, social media, internet accounts, basically your online life – what happens to that after you die? If you live virtually, you can now die virtually. All you need is a digital executor.

Along with other services related to dying in the 21st century, legacy companies have started offering cyber wills. Here’s how it works: think of someone to be your digital executor, someone who knows computers and can, once given proper access info, go through your personal online presence and tidy up details from sordid to embarrassing to barely legal. They have to be someone who can follow your specific instructions on the clean up your computer needs.

But how does your online executor access your personal information to do the clean up? They present your death certificate and their ID as your named executor to the company you’ve hired to hold in secret all your access codes, usernames, specific directions, etc. As per your cyber will instructions your online existence is then purged of the day-to-day dust like your email accounts as well as the nasty stuff (maybe that secret email folder), leaving you haloed and hallowed, a model cyber citizen!

Instead of the trusty filing cabinet or safety deposit box, some people have started storing important documents likes wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates, passports and insurance policies online for safe keeping. That’s the kind of info your online executor needs to access in order to fulfill your wishes. Some governments are starting to guarantee the rights of executors to deal with digital legacies.

What about the social media aspect of your digital legacy? Facebook does not release a person’s password to next of kin and only closes the page after being shown the death certificate, which can take several months. Additionally, when a Facebook user dies and the company is informed, their page can be “memorialized” which hides features such as status updates and allows only confirmed friends to view and post comments on your profile. This system has not been standardized so problems have arisen with Facebook.

Twitter has a set procedure, again based on executor contact, to deactivate your account upon death. If you’d prefer to “stay alive” on Twitter you can state how you’d like your profile to be handled, the nature of future updates and who can tweet. By the way, if you have a massive collection of digital music and eBooks these cannot be bequeathed under their licensing terms. Technically you don’t actually own them.

Creative people often have their intellectual property stored online. As a writer and videographer I am currently pondering where my intellectual property rights will go and who can access and use them. This includes completed as well as works-in-progress.

How would you like to be remembered? I don’t mean your obituary. I mean, what would you like people who scan your personal QR code which has been imbedded in your tombstone to see? For a few hundred dollars, you can have your QR code visible on your stone so people with smart phones and the app can scan it and learn more about you. Do you want the website they’d arrive at show a few pictures and your obit? Or maybe you want a full life documentary from tongs to tomb? Or you could record yourself sharing your life’s wisdom with the left-behind? The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

If you find the QR code idea to have too much of a creep-out factor (or not enough), how about this? Some legacy companies will store emails you have written that are sent out at intervals to various people after you die. These could be birthday or anniversary wishes, past-event reminders or any other significant occasions.

Elsewhere on this blog I have written about obituary euphemisms and easy ways to make out your will. As ever, I offer this information as a public service and encourage you to educate yourself fully in matters of your own death both on and offline.

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Filed under Blog Life, Death and Dying, Life and Life Only, Passages

2 responses to “Log Off in Peace – Cyber Wills and the Virtual Beyond

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