In the olden days (pre internet anyway), death was a relatively simple affair: the physical belongings of the deceased could be carefully sorted through, boxed up, and divided among family and friends to act as a permanent and tangible reminder of a life.
In the digital age however, things are starting to get a bit trickier. As well as the physical belongings, more and more people now have an entire cyber existence to take care of – Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts, web based photo libraries, personal documents and online financial accounts to name a few. Most of the user names and passwords for these are kept inside people’s heads – what happens if they die without telling anyone? It can take months to close down some of these facilities, and obviously, only if you knew they existed in the first place.
With this in mind, a few websites have recently sprung up to specifically deal with this issue. Although they may slightly vary in their format or protocol, their basic objective is the same – for a small subscription fee, they will store all this vital information and even personal messages securely on your behalf, in a kind of “digital will”. When the inevitable happens, the site then automatically emails this information swiftly and directly to nominated people that you have pre-chosen, be that family, friends or a solicitor.
Some people will find the thought of sending preprogrammed “messages from the grave” a bit macabre, but the underlying concept for releasing important information to the right people after your death is very practical.
Site security for potentially important and sensitive information is obviously paramount, with all those listed below insisting they have the best possible web security in place, as well as fail safe measures to make sure they do not send out the information by mistake. Most will need your solicitor and/or two nominated “verifiers”, with a death certificate as proof, before any information can be released.
Some of the sites are also marketed to be very helpful whilst you’re still alive. If updated regularly, they can securely keep a record of user names and passwords for your own needs, in case you manage to forget them, or have an accident/illness that renders you unable to recall.
Whether this “solution” is for you or not, the ability to maintain control of your digital footprint will appeal to many. Dealing with your death will be hard enough for those left behind, these sites can potentially give you peace of mind, and provide a practical service at a time when it will be really appreciated.
Finally, do remember that a “digital will” does not replace a Last Will and Testament. In the UK, only a Last Will and Testament on paper, signed in ink by appropriate witnesses will be legally recognised. Your “digital will” might mention where your Last Will and Testament is stored, and could even contain a copy of it, but it wouldn’t stand up in a court of law.