Digital Death - Keeping Your Nuclear Codes Safe
8 Jul 2019
If you read our easy three step guide, you now know what'll happen to your online life after you're gone.
Omitted from the previous instructions, however, is where to leave your nuclear codes so they're safe-but-accessible for your nominated contact to get at*. This may require creativity.
So how do you do this safely? Well there are ways …
1. Sealed envelope
For all this digital shenanigans, why is pen and paper still the safety net? Yes, the old ways are sometimes the best ways – so having your details sealed in an envelope is a good way to go.
You can instruct your Will executor to distribute this envelope to the nominated person after you die (FYI best let the nominee know first).
This is a very simple way of providing the details but remember, whenever you change a password, or sign up somewhere new - you'll need to buy a new envelope.
2. Pen Drive
This is simply the updated version of the envelope. Again, the physical item can be given by the Will executor to a nominated person upon death. This way's simpler and saves on paper.
3. Make a game of itAha, now we're talking. Leave a note of one password for one account (safely) with your chosen person with instructions that further passwords for further accounts are hidden within private sections of subsequent accounts. It's like a creepy online treasure hunt.
Your nominated person unlocks more passwords as they search your accounts. This sounds grim, but there's method to this eerie madness: by hiding further passwords strategically in one account, you can ensure your nominee looks thoroughly to find media, documents and photos they’d otherwise miss.
4. Give them the password, double the trustWe're back to slightly boring - but boring can be hugely effective. If you're in a long-term relationship, a conjoined twin or have a genuine BFF, then throwing that person your passwords before you die is the ultimate show of trust.
It does make the whole process much easier than leaving clues around your accounts, but think very carefully before you do this – the last thing anyone would want is for the nominated person to stumble across something shocking/ upsetting/ naked.
5. Leave it alone entirely?
To be honest, this is what most people do. It's the very worst option available and absolutely not recommended. But before you consider taking this route (the justification is logical - you're dead so your digital life ceases to be your problem) it helps to understand the impact and the potential issues if you don't bother.Leaving no instructions or provisions means friends and family will take complete responsibility for guessing how you want your digital footprint deleted (or otherwise) after you die. Or maybe they won’t.
If they do then they'll need to provide death certificates, obituary reports and covering letters etc just to have your accounts shut down. This takes time, effort and lots of admin at, like, the worst possible moment for the people you care about most.
If your family doesn't pick up the baton, then get ready to receive birthday well-wishes and Tinder matches while you're swimming through the afterlife. For you this might sound neat, but for the family after it's a painful reminder.
*To clarify – practically no social media platform will grant access to a third party or hand out login credentials to anyone other than the account holder. When the account-holder dies this position doesn’t change.
To any reasonable person, it makes logical sense that a trusted third-party has the keys to your digital world so they can log in and mop up before notifying the platform of your demise. The trouble is that this action sits on slightly shaky legal ground … but what the social fat cats don’t know can’t hurt ‘em right?
It goes without saying that you need to nominate someone you wholeheartedly trust to take care of your posthumous digital affairs. If it's shutting accounts down and even withdrawing a bit of cash, then trusting just one person is probably the way to go. The process involves supplying death certificates so it's probably better to put that responsibility on one person than spreading it out among your grieving network.
Oh and if you do give out your passwords to a chosen someone, then definitely do not include those credentials in your Will – they'll be read by several people. What you should include in your Will is exactly who will own your digital life/ credentials after you die.
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