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Technology After Death

tree in middle of graveyardIn the aftermath of the recent death in my life, there has been a lot of work to “close” a person’s life.  In addition to dealing with clothes, shoes, books, memorabilia, CDs, financial dealings, retirement accounts and automobiles, I have also been faced with several decisions regarding email accounts, social media, cloud storage, web sites and blogs.

What do we do with these electronic artifacts after someone dies? I really don’t have a good answer. But there are services and resources out there to help.

I have left the email accounts open. I was fortunate to have access to the deceased person’s password manager so that has not been a problem to get to the accounts. I can certainly see how it would be difficult for an executor to deal with such accounts without knowing the passwords or even the accounts’ existence. If you need to plan something like that, sometimes just encrypted plain text files sent to a trusted relative or friend can work or you can use a service like AssetLock for storage of that kind of information.

I have closed some social networking accounts, like LinkedIn. That seemed like an easy decision. Others, such as Facebook, I have left open – although some hacker started impersonating the account, which was very disturbing to friends and family. I have that under control now (here’s how to report a fake account) and my friend, Donn, did a great post on how to help prevent that from happening again. The Facebook account feels like it needs to stay open because folks are still posting things on her wall, although with much less frequency as time moves forward. I do know I can request the page to be turned into a memorial page and I will probably do that soon, especially after this recent hack incident.

The website is active but I replaced the site with a simple page stating the the business was closed due to the death of the owner. The blogs are still active but I posted a “final” message on them stating that the podcasts would cease. I think the archive of the blogs still should stand. Renewing the domain name is not that expensive and it seems like a good tribute and legacy.

I downloaded one account of cloud storage to get the photographs and then closed the account since it would cost about $100 to keep it up and running for another year and that seemed unnecessary. I would have appreciated the company providing a bulk download tool or option to get all of the photos out easier but that is another blog post, I believe.

Then, there is Twitter. I have left the Twitter account open but I probably should close it but how to gather all those past tweets? I guess I will need to see if the account has the archive feature. And, of course, there are no more tweets forthcoming making me recall services like DeadSocial, which provide a means for you to write and prepare your messages to Facebook, Twitter and the like after your death. Someone (an “executor”) has to log into the account and activate these messages so they just don’t get sent out automatically if you don’t respond but they still can go out – and keep going out weeks after you are gone, if you desire and write them. If you don’t like the idea of someone having to go “flip the switch” for your messages, you can go with the Dead Man’s Switch approach of having to check in periodically and when you quit doing that, the messages are sent.

You can also use the Facebook app, If I Die, to prepare a video that is published after your death. I guess that is one way to know exactly what your “last words” could be. And, perhaps involve your cat in the video as well.

And, then there is Google. Ah, leave it to The Google to have a solution: The Inactive Account Manager. Set that up in the account settings and…

For example, you can choose to have your data deleted — after three, six, nine or 12 months of inactivity. Or you can select trusted contacts to receive data from some or all of the following services: +1s; Blogger; Contacts and Circles; Drive; Gmail; Google+ Profiles, Pages and Streams; Picasa Web Albums; Google Voice and YouTube. Before our systems take any action, we’ll first warn you by sending a text message to your cellphone and email to the secondary address you’ve provided.


I haven’t EVEN started to figure out how (or if) I can transfer iTunes purchases and eBooks. I am thinking that I probably cannot transfer them so that is another argument for being sure you pass along your account information to someone who might want to have access to that digital content.

For more information on your digital afterlife and planning, check out The Digital Beyond.

Image: ‘The Raised Bones of Arlington National Cemetery
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