Digital Life After Death

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News October 2013

Whether you provide detailed instructions through a letter stored in a deposit box or you use one of the many available services, it’s important to think about your digital life when trying to plan for the unexpected.

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Do you have a Facebook or Yahoo! account; share photos on Flickr or Instagram; have a Twitter account; sell items on eBay or have a retirement account you can access online?

If you’re anything like me, you answered yes to most of those questions. The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project says 72% of online adults use social networking sites. It also found those age 65 and older on social networking sites went from 13% in 2009 to 43% this year.

So now that so many of us have a digital life, what happens to it after we’re gone?

New Thinking

Unfortunately, most people don’t like to think about their death, nor plan for injury or catastrophe.

I walked out of my apartment on July 7, 1979, and never returned after my spinal-cord injury. My roommate ended up packing my belongings and gave them to my family.

Whether you provide detailed instructions through a letter stored in a deposit box or you use one of the many available services, it’s important to think about your digital life when trying to plan for the unexpected.

Thomas Friedman writes in The World is Flat about the family of Justin Ellsworth, an American soldier killed in 2004 on foot patrol in Iraq. His parents went to court to gain access to Justin’s Yahoo! account.

Justin’s family eventually gained access to some emails; however, this case gave rise to new thinking on how to deal with our digital life after death.

Undertakers & Beyond

There are a wide array of resources for dealing with digital life after death, but a few sites stood out as real treasures.

The Digital Beyond ( is a blog and much more. Created by John Romano and Evan Carroll, the site features a book authored by them titled, Your Digital Afterlife; and the blog posts include topics such as cultural and legal issues. 

A similar informational site with a somewhat ominous name, The Digital Undertakers (, offers easy to use tools, practical advice and solutions that help people identify and record digital assets in a compassionate and understanding way.

At a very low cost, it offers a do-it-yourself “closure pack” and set of five Microsoft Excel templates for organizing important need-to-know items about your life.

I’m a great fan of Google products and have covered many of them. The inventive people at Google have thought about your digital afterlife, too, and have created a new way for you to manage things.

The Inactive Account Manager  provides a way for users to share parts of their account data or notify someone if they’ve been inactive for a certain period of time.

To set up Inactive Account Manager, go to and click on the setup link under Account Management.

More Resources

Other websites and services that can help you, family and friends handle your digital life after death include:


Offered in every plan is a step-by-step planning guide, ability to upload important estate and financial documents, track your progress, receive alerts and reminders, access to premium content, secure storage, and immediate transfer designated recipients upon passing.

Cost: $60 a year or $299 for a lifetime.


This site is about organizing your life so if you unexpectedly die, become ill or disabled the important details of your life can be made available to those who need it.

Cost: Dependent on storage level: $9.95 per year to a $239.95 one-time fee.

Cirrus Legacy

This service helps you take control of your digital life now and when you die by keeping track of your email accounts, online banking, etc. and decide what happens to them after you are gone.

Cost: Unlimited accounts and guardians with 100 megabytes of storage for $15 per year or a $220 one-time fee.


A service that periodically prompts the account holder to provide a predetermined password to ensure they’re still alive. If the person doesn’t respond over a certain period of time, the system deduces the account holder is either dead or critically injured and begins sending out personalized pre-written messages to chosen contacts.

Cost: Free for one message to one recipient; $19.95 a year for 30 messages to up to 10 people.

Legacy Locker

A safe, secure repository for your vital digital property that lets you grant access to online assets for friends and loved ones in the event of loss, death or disability.

Cost: Limited free access, $29.99 monthly or a $299.99 one-time fee.


Stores your confidential passwords securely and safely for the long-term and helps make sure your partners and family are not denied access to them in the event of an emergency.

Cost: Free to $12.90 per month. Multi-year discounts available.

Express Your Wishes

Do a favor for those you love and heirs to your estate by clearly ex-pressing your wishes and organizing all aspects of your life, including your digital life.

You might be surprised how empowering it is when preparing for something that we all will eventually face; our own death.

I’m not certain what I’ll write about next time. So please send me your insights, suggestions or questions at:


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