One of the most eye-opening sessions that I attended earlier this year at the annual conference of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) was entitled “Creating a Will for your Virtual Life”. Heather Ahern, a Massachusetts-based Professional Organizer, said that you should create a digital estate plan to ensure the appropriate disposition of your digital assets, just as you would do with your tangible assets.
Since attending that session, I’ve come across a number of articles — in AARP Magazine, in the New York Times, on the web — on this topic. I also read a book entitled “Your Digital Afterlife” by Evan Carroll and John Romano. I highly recommend this book, as it goes into this complex subject in great detail and features a template to enable you to document all of your on-line accounts and determine what should happen to them and who will be responsible. One of the authors, Evan Carroll, also runs a blog called The Digital Beyond which features this fascinating infographic about what will happen to your information.
You might be very surprised to learn that after someone passes away, their heirs don’t necessarily own their on-line content. You know all those Terms of Service screens that you agree to when you set up an account? You know, the ones that are too voluminous to actually read? Some of them specify that upon the death of an account holder, the content belongs to the company.
If you have not yet documented all of your on-line accounts, start doing so now, as that is the first step to establishing control. I started documenting mine almost 6 years ago. At that time, I was surprised to see that I had 58 logon IDs and passwords. Now, I’ve got more than 250! And that doesn’t even count the ones I’ve already canceled (more on that process next time).