Since ancient times, humans have had the need to prepare for life after death. In today’s online world, it is again a relevant topic. You don’t need a sixth sense to see dead people. There’s plenty of them on Facebook and other social media platforms. Many aspects of our digital lives carry on once we die. Unless something is done about it. This blog post talks about how to prepare for your own death online.
Why do you need to prepare for your own death?
Of course, your digital life stops being your problem when the time comes. However, you can and should make things a lot easier for your loved ones. There are things that need to be taken care of online. Some of it can be more about how you want your legacy or public image to be treated. Some are about preserving memories. But there are also possible threats. For example, the identity of a deceased person can be stolen.
The digital world touches almost everyone. Following, these tips are good for everyone. In the end, there’s an end for each of us. And being prepared is good for other scenarios as well. You might be incapable of taking care of your own matters due to an illness, for example. Who’s going to watch out for you if you can’t do it yourself? And how – if all the keys go with you?
1. Prepare for your own death with a digital testament
A digital testament isn’t an official document. It tells how you want your online presence to be handled. It helps your loved ones tremendously. Many of the things included are impossible to get otherwise.
In this testament, list all the social media profiles you have. Write down instructions on what you want to be done with them. Personal profiles should be deleted. But maybe you want to pass a dear hobby profile or and important company account to someone else? Some gaming accounts can include games and other content worth thousands of dollars. Someone might have use for it still.
2. Terminate social media accounts and subscriptions
Accounts and paid subscriptions don’t necessarily just stop existing. Someone needs to terminate them. You can prepare for this by minimizing your online presence. Delete unnecessary profiles and cancel subscriptions. Any account with payment details and sensitive personal information is top priority. This leaves less to worry about to whomever is handling your things. It also decreases the risk of identity theft. In fact, this is a good thing to do even your death is not in the near future.
Things get more difficult when someone else deletes your accounts. Most likely they have to contact customer support and provide some evidence of your death and of authority to take care of your matters. Make your login credentials available to someone and you avoid it. With login credentials the profiles can be deleted normally.
Many inactive accounts close automatically after a certain period of time. Usually, the ones you pay for won’t do that. The easiest way to prevent charges is to terminate the credit card used to pay for them. Which would probably be done anyway. But it doesn’t work if the subscriptions are paid with a joint credit card, like one with your spouse, for example.
3. List your passwords
Include the login credentials to your profiles into your digital testament. You can write them all on paper, but there is also an easier way. You can have them all in a password manager. In your digital testament you only include the password to your password manager. The rest are safely and conveniently in your password vault.
If you want to use a password manager for your digital testament, you also need to give access to your physical device. With a password manger, passwords are only stored on that and any linked device.
4. Grant access to your devices
Some accounts use 2-factor authentication. One-time passcodes needed to pass the 2FA are likely sent to your phone. Or there might be an authenticator app – also on your phone, or your computer. Make sure someone has access to them.
In regards of 2FA, closing your phone number and email account should be the very last thing to be done. If they are closed too soon, 2FA codes can’t be received and access to certain accounts is forever lost. This is important, so you might want to add that to your digital testament.
You might also use a fingerprint or facial recognition to access some devices and accounts. In these cases, there should be a back-up login method. Whoever takes care of your matters needs to have this back-up code.
Finally, your device might be a key to managing many of your online accounts. It might also have a lots of important files. Speaking of…
5. Give access to your files
When photos were still on paper, they would automatically be available to your relatives. Nowadays, most photos are only in digital form. your death might lead to them being forever gone. They might be stored on your computer, external storage, or a cloud. Regardless, if no one has the password – or don’t even know where they are stored – they are lost forever.
Prevent this and list in your digital testament where your photos are stored. Are they on a hard drive? Which cloud storage do you use? Also, include the login credentials to access them.
This also applies to any other documents you might have. Especially if you run a company. It’s vital that someone has access to the important documents that are in digital form only. You can prepare for your own death by printing out everything. But sometimes it’s just not a realistic option. Especially if you are already incapable of doing so.
Of course, you might have files and photos you don’t want anyone to see. Sensitive photos, a diary… We all have our secrets, and you still have the right to privacy once you are gone. It’s worth storing the things you want to pass on to a separate cloud storage or a memory device. Restrict access to anything else. Or if possible, delete them.
Some services help you prepare for your own death online
There are services that are meant to help this all for you. For example, you can set Google Inactive Account Manager to contact someone in case your account is dormant. Services like that are a good back-up if you haven’t prepared to the worst at all. But even they only do a little. If you want to prepare for your own death and make things as easy as possible to whomever will look after you, well, after you, follow the instructions on this blog post.