Your digital assets after death

world is flat bookcoverHave you considered what will happen to your digital assets after you die? Have you made plans for disposition of blogs, web sites, photos, e-mail, financial data, social networking sites profiles, fan pages,  etc.?

Many sites make it very difficult for anyone other than the account holder  to access them and that can create problems for your executor and beneficiaries unless you plan in advance.

In his book The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman tells the story of Justin Ellsworth, a U.S. Marine killed in action in Iraq. Justin’s parents wanted access to his Yahoo ( YHOO news people ) e-mail account so they could gather more details about his life. After Yahoo refused, his parents had to go to court to gain access to his personal e-mail account in a process in which Justin had no say.  —  How To Pass On Digital Assets After You’re Gone

Entrusted provides away  to protect ALL your digital assets. Entrustet is a secure online service that allows you to create a list of your online accounts and digital files, manage their distribution and deletion on death.

You can use Entrustet to protect your digital assets and take control of your legacy. Use the Account Guardian to create a list of your digital assets and decide if you want to transfer each asset to an heir or have them destroyed after your passing.

Check out the Account Incinerator, if you have assets you’d like securely and privately destroyed after your passing, and check out the Attorney directory, to find an experienced estate planning attorney in your area who can help you incorporate your digital assets into a traditional will or trust.

  • Create a secure list of digital assets
  • Designate heirs and a Digital Executor
  • Decide which assets are transferred to heirs and which are deleted
  • Legally protect your digital assets

Entrustet Premium costs $5/month and will be available in August. Why sign up for Entrustet Premium?

  • Save family and friends enormous amounts of time and hassle
  • Have personal online accounts discreetly deleted upon your passing
  • Craft your digital legacy by making sure certain accounts don’t remain part of your online presence

Further Reading:

The best we can do is to put things in order as well as we can, pick the right people to handle them, and leave reasonably clear instructions. I suggest that we want to try to do the same things for our digital estates.Toward that end, I want to recommend a simple five-step plan that you can start on today and then revisit from time to time. — Estate Planning for Your Digital Assets By Dennis Kennedy

The Digital Beyond maintains this list of online services that are designed to help you plan for your digital death and afterlife or memorialize loved ones.  These services come in all flavors including digital estate services, posthumous email services and online memorials. — The Digital Beyond Online Services List

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51 thoughts on “Your digital assets after death

  1. Hi TT, thats a very informative post, and it pertains to a matter of increasing relevance these days. The more we begin to use the online interface for business, networking, time-pass, etc. the more it falls upon us to be aware of this matter. I will certainly keep it in mind. Thanks!

    1. Hi sprigblossoms,
      Thanks for the positive feedback. In the past we did not have digital options for storing documents and photos, etc. but now that we do it’s a recommendation I make to those who raise the issue. Best wishes to you.

  2. This is something we wrote upon in our latest blog. It’s such an important topic that is all-too-frequently forgotten. More than just how to access online accounts, how to know if there were accounts in the first place. In conjunction with the logic of Thomas Friedman and the founders at Entrustet, Knowtification.com developed a service that contacts the nation’s largest financial institutions (life insurers, banks, brokerage and securities firms, pension and 401k plan administrators) to locate unknown or forgotten accounts, blasting the nation with a death notification.

    Are people using these services as much as they should be? Is Entrustet getting consumer attention? Is Knowtification getting the consumer attention it needs? Does the public realize how important it is to keep track of assets, both online and offline? My immediate answer is no, but I would like to know other thoughts.

  3. Interesting post.Well,I am just a kid-teen now,but then I too have tens and tens of online accounts.I am too planning to sign up for this service…

    Death is somethimg no one wants if he/she is near to his/her success…..Bad luck for those :(

  4. Wow. I never even knew such a service existed. Indeed, I never even considered what would happen to my blog if I kicked the bucket prematurely. Food for thought, for sure. Thank you!

  5. I had honestly not considered it but now I will as someone who has a unpredictable future due to health problems this seems like a good idea for me to try, thanks TITI for the insight.

  6. Thanks for writing about this important issue. I’ve been blogging about the digital afterlife for some time and it’s great to see services like Entrustet start up. They’re delivering great value to the Internet community.

    Here’s a list of the services I’ve learned about, but I’m sure there are more out there: http://www.thedigitalbeyond.com/online-services-list/

    I’m also grateful to learn about the ABA newsletter. Thanks, Jean.

    1. Thanks so much for that link. I’ll be pleased to edit my post and include it above wo my readers find it and so you get a backlink to your services list. :)

  7. I’ve often thought about this (I’m prone to thinking about mortality for some reason), though I’ve never truly considered how I’d go about dealing with it.

    While I’m not sure I’d ever take advantage of such a service as Entrustet, it’s certainly something to consider, and I suppose it’s nice that such a service exists. Beyond that, I don’t think it’d be unreasonable to ask that a friend or family member take care of your online assets after you’re gone, as that sort of thing already occurs for physical assets.

  8. Ahh! Knew I was forgetting something before I take the leap back into the infinite! Can’t take it with me that’s obvious.

  9. Death in the long run feels a little bit stiff.
    But hey, thanks for the reminder, this is really an pretty forgotten area of the digital life – we all die. And to pass the digital assets before passing away is a nicer way to say goodbye.

    1. I think many people choose not to think about death or to plan in advance for its inevitability. When one marries whether or not they have children that’s the time to make a last will and testament and digital assets ought to be included in your estate planning. Yes it would be good to dispose of digital assets before we die, but there is no guarantee that any of us know when that final day will be.

  10. Thanks so much for your sweet comment on my blog :-))
    Followed you back here and started reading… oh my, I had never thought of this!! Need to do some planning and not leave my children with a big mess to sort through. Great post!

    1. Hi Jonie,
      Thanks for the visit and the positive feedback too. Best wishes with your digital estate planning and with your blogging too. :)

  11. Very informative and relevant. I had never thought of this.. I had thought that it would continue by default. Given the fact that I am completely on my own, I would have to make arrangement for deletion whatever I would want to be deleted i.e.,
    But I understand that if I don’t, it would continue to float around??

    1. @Loivia,
      What happens to our digital assets if they are abandoned is that a matter of individual policy set by each individual service provider.

  12. Thought provoking as always, Timethief, though this time with a slight shudder. Question: I’ve had a quick look at most of the links, though not the book – does anyone explain (or know??) what happens to on-line stuff if nothing is ever done? E.g. if my Facebook page or Amazon account is not touched for xxx period of time, does the site delete it? Or is that a matter of individual policy on each service provider? The Account Incinerator sounds the most attractive option though that still leaves the PC content. Here’s hoping nothing happens before I can figure it all out. Thanks again.

    1. Hi Cynthia,
      Yes, what happens to our digital assets if they are abandoned is that a matter of individual policy set by each individual service provider.

  13. Great post and thanks for writing about us! You’re on the leading edge talking about digital assets now and I think that they’ll be a big part of people’s estates in the near future. If you have any questions about Entrustet or digital assets in general, let me know!

    Thanks,

    Nathan Lustig
    cofounder,

  14. You know how to make a person think — again……. I’ve thought about this a number of times, but just keep putting off doing something……. Frankly, I didn’t know there were some good procedures and plans out there…… Now that I know, I need to become a bit more pro-active.

    I’m not getting any younger and time is of the essence……. Thank you for a very noteworthy post……. Have a great day!

    1. Hi Margaret,
      You are most welcome and thanks for the positive feedback. I hope you have a great day and for that matter a great new week too. :)

  15. Really interesting and I have thought about it, funny enough. I’m only 38 but hubby and I have a will for each other. The will does not include digital assets but in case of a tragic event, we both have access to each others’ digital accounts as well as bank accounts. In an event something happen to us both, I think it’s quite an excellent idea if you could have someone delete/safeguard/pass-on your digital assets.

    Fantastic post once again TT. Thanks for sharing. :)

    1. I’m so glad this post has prompted you. Yes couples can meet their demise in the same accident for example. The world has shifted and we know need to include planning for our cyber estates as well as for our real estate and personal property. Best wishes to you and happy blogging. :)

  16. I would choose a real, live person who knew me well and pretty close to post my flying-of f-to- heaven notice at such forums/blogs. (Gee, that sounds so…drastic/final/horrible.)

    Since cycling does..unfortunately cause injuries and death on the rare occasion, I am a member on 1 international Internet board, where 3 members died accidentally at different times, different cities and years while each person was cycling. Some Internet forum subject boards are individually dedicated in their memory, depending on the deceased’ area of subject Internet focus when person was alive.

    It’s nice to joke, cuss and rant on the Internet..but it’s also nice to say something good / meaningful/useful more often on the Internet than not.

    1. @Moonbeam
      Oh, how lovely to see your avatar. :) Impermanence is certainly a thought provoking subject and a somewhat discomforting one if you haven’t planned for your demise. I cried so heard when I read Andy Olmstead’s post in 2008 and I even tear up when I read it now. So I’ve done the basic arrangements but I’ve yet to be able to write a parting post.

      Here’s a {HUG} as it’s been a long time.
      Love and peace,
      TiTi

  17. Hi TiTi,
    I’ve been mulling over this very subject myself lately, not from an asset point of view (what assets?) as much as “notification” of the situation to “real” friends and the friends and acquaintances that I’ve made online.
    Yes, sure I’d want to have things like my PayPal account, antivirus subscriptions, all that sort of thing killed off too, but more important to me would be the knowledge that somebody would be able to put a post up on each of my blogs to let people know that I’d gone, and would send an email to everyone on my contacts list.
    Other than putting passwords in a sealed envelope for after the event I was wondering if there was a better way, so I’ll certainly have a look at what is on offer.
    Thanks.

    1. G’day,
      You say you were concerned about leaving a final post on each of your blogs to let them know you were gone. Here is the link to one of the most moving posts on the internet. Andy Olmsted left a post for his friend to publish in the event of his death. I cried as I read it and I’ll bet you will too.

      A better way for keeping passwords is found here > Keep Your Passwords Safe – KeePass

      I appreciate your visit and contribution too. Blog on. :)
      TiTi

  18. American Bar Association published in one of their recent newsletters which gives general guidance for folks to think and how to plan about this.

    http://www.abanet.org/lpm/lpt/articles/ftr03103.shtml

    At least cut down the time/cost consulting the lawyer because you have thought through and planned in advance to express your wishes to lawyer for will /estate planning.

    Of course, when I read about the passwords, etc. accounts….the electronic age truly emphasizes how important it is to have 1-2 people in life that one absolutely trusts for financial matters. Even more important now, than pre-electronic banking days.

    1. @Jean
      Thank you so much for the link to that article. It’s a well explained 5 step program and I’m going to edit and include the link in my post above so others take note of it. Yes, indeed the circle of trust becomes smaller and smaller.

  19. I appreciate the way you’ve introduced this topic — many of us haven’t paid enough attention to the issues raised here. Similar to making a will, such thoughts are pushed to the back burner until you marry, own enough property or reach a magic age!

    We also need to think of the situation of sudden illness and accidents that can incapacitate. As someone with web clients, most of whom I only communicate with by internet, this could be a problem. Minimally you need to share basic passwords and access with someone you trust, even if you leave it with power of attorney type documents. It’s also a case for keeping business email addresses separate from personal.

    Very interesting and thought provoking!

    1. @SBA
      How great it is to see your avatar. :) Sudden illness and/or accidents can incapacitate and even overcome us just ask me. ..lol :D It’s been exactly 2 years since the head injury that took 20 months to recover from. II got by because I have Richard as my Co-Admin and wonderful blogging friends like you who became guest bloggers. That experience was an informative one in many ways. We don’t like to think about these things but if we don’t plan ahead what we end up doing is burdening someone else.

      You bring forward and excellent points about password backup and separation of personal and business email addresses. As I said in my post on password managers they are are leverage technology. They effectively raise the bar for attackers and if we use one like Keepass then our Co-Admin, executor or whatever need to have access. Keep Your Passwords Safe

      Thanks so much for contributing to the discussion.
      TiTi

  20. Hey TiTi!

    Thanks very much for sharing the services of Entrustet!

    I have also wondered what would happen should my last moments be imminent. I know for a fact that getting email services providers like Google and Yahoo! to allow family to access accounts of their deceased can be a bothersome chore. All the waiting, need for formal applications, and endless verification.

    I will do try out Entrustet.

    Thanks again!

    Cheers!

    1. @RogueHero
      I hope you have been keeping well. I’m happy to hear this discomforting subject matter didn’t put you off. I most certainly want to make things easy for my family rather than having them go through a rigmarole. I’m sure most bloggers would feel the same if they stopped to consider what they want done with their digital assets after they are gone, and who they think would be best to take care of that.

      Thanks for the comment.
      Cheers!
      TiTi

  21. TiTi

    Interesting post. I never thought about this. I’ve read both The World Is Flat 2.0, and Longitudes And Attitudes. I bought a copy of The World Is Flat in Beijing before boarding my flight back to Amerika.
    The Information Age, what a tremendous age to be living in. I never thought about my email perhaps being an asset, but I suppose it is, in that it is insight into my life, who I am, my thoughts, my musings, even my inner most secrets. Blogs are copyrighted works that could be of value to family, and friends even to publishers depending on the work, and blogger. The fact that there are already resources available to handle “Digital Assets” makes this a timely subject that perhaps to which we should give serious thought. Thanks!

    Continued Success!

    1. Hello there J.
      It’s always good to hear from you. :)
      You’re so right what those who remain may want is deeper insight into our inner lives and musings. In past time when a person passed on there were “paper” assets and now there are “digital” assets.

      My arrangements made previously are very basic as aside from my Beloved I have few close friends and relatives who I would trust to dispose of things the way I want them to. As Jean was discussing in her post in a different context who you trust with your information and where you draw your information from becomes a huge subject that’s worth exploring. And, death likes taxes is inevitable.

      Best wishes always,
      TiTi

  22. Securing the safety of our digital assets is indeed a very complicated emerging issue.

    I think its terrible that families of deceased individuals actually got into heated court battles with large companies like Yahoo.

    Entrustet is a great idea and I think the market is going to skyrocket.

    I actually just interviewed the co-founder, Jesse Davis and posted a review of the company.

  23. what are the ways you use to earn online as you can’t earn a single penny by this wordpress.com hosted blog???

    1. You are ill informed. In fact wordpress.com does support bloggers who are authors, artists, musicians, artisans, crafts people and other “creators” who wish to sell what they themselves make. WordPress.com does not allow reselling and retailing of goods that others make. WordPress.com blogs cannot be used to drive traffic to third party sites and that’s what advertising and affiliate programs are all about. But there is a small exception for craftspeople.

      As we all agree to a TOS before we can get a free blog that’s free hosted by wordpress.com I can’t fathom why anyone would agree to it and then violate the terms of Service but some do and their blogs are “nuked” by Admin. This is all for the betterment of the blogging environment at wordpress.com because it means it’s not like blogspot where the spammers, scammers and click fraud fools, sploggers are set up to pimp out their no quality and low quality blogs for adsense pennies. http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2007/04/09/why-wordpresscom-is-virtually-spam-free/

      Please read these entries below so you know how off-base your comment is in the context of money making, and in the future, please don’t submit off-topic comments to my blog posts so I won’t be tempted to mark them as spam.
      types of blogs allowed and not allowed > http://wordpress.com/types-of-blogs/
      advertising > http://en.support.wordpress.com/advertising/

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