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The Digital Afterlife – Managing Your Final Affairs

Joshua Lockhart 08-05-2013

your digital afterlifeAs you look towards the final stage of your life, you may realize that there is a certain amount of paperwork must be handled. We’ve even covered a great deal of this information in one of our past articles, Your Last Will & Testament – What Happens To Your Data When You Die?


Let’s take a look at the condensed version of all this. What are the exact items that you’ll need in order to handle your most important documents? If you don’t know the answer, I’ve packed the main stuff into a nice, bite-sized list that pretty much anyone can handle. Granted, before you do any of this, you must arrange for power of your attorney. This way, the right papers will be distributed in the right manner by the right person.

  • A living will
  • A will
  • A plan for your funeral

Furthermore, there are a few other documents you’ll want to keep a master copy of, but we won’t be diving into the details of these for the purpose of this article. Just know that they are important, and you need them:

  • Birth certificates, citizenship papers, adoption papers.
  • Social security numbers/cards, driver’s license.
  • Marriage certificates, divorce/separation papers.
  • Medication records.
  • List of choice medical care providers.
  • Military records.
  • Real estate records.
  • Information for important contacts.

Storing Your Past

your digital afterlife

It’s common sense, really. Basically, if it’s important to you right now, it will be important in the event of your death. Keep it stored away somewhere.

But here’s a question: where is that somewhere? Well, for your most important information, I recommend keeping this data on multiple hard drives. Let trusted friends and family have them, and make sure these aren’t the kinds of people who would steal your information if given the chance. You may even want to keep a drive in a lockbox somewhere. In short, keep this stuff safe – it is your life, after all.


Some might say that it’s best to write everything down in hard copy. Yep. I agree that’s a good way to keep things. But if you have the option to back your information up using multiple storage methods, wouldn’t you want to use it?

Likewise, I say take advantage of the cloud Top 10 Creative Uses For Dropbox Or Other Cloud Storage The agility, flexibility, and low-cost scale ups turn cloud storage options into more than an online vault to back up your documents and files. But cloud storage is more than these important but mundane uses.... Read More for certain information – perhaps your will or an outline of your funeral or memorial. I wouldn’t recommend uploading important information like your social security number simply because it’s out there in the digital world.

Beyond this important information that pertains to your real life, it’s a good idea to keep a list of all of your account information for various services in an spreadsheet file. This will help your family or friends update people on what has happened as well as give them the ability to close these accounts. However, with services like Google’s Inactive Account Manager Protect Your Online Persona If You Die With Google Inactive Account Manager One of the most common problems that occur when people have an unfortunate accident at a younger age, is that usually that person has done absolutely nothing to set their affairs in order in the... Read More , this may be less needed over time.

The point is this – use the digital media as yet another tool to store your information.



your digital life after death

Everyone knows money is important. However, if your financial records are an absolute disaster, then your successors are going to have a mountain of trouble to scale. Do your family a favor – keep good records of your finances. Furthermore, keep updated records of your finances. Your family should know about the $713,000 debt you racked up while at the races. They also should probably know about the dollar investment you made in that one gaming app that resulted in a two-million dollar return.

Likewise, keep records that let people know where your money is. PayPal emails and passwords, Square account information, online banking keys – all of these should be kept in a safe place that is accessible to loved ones. Preferably, keep these on a hard drive and away from online storage . Then again, cloud storage may be a more viable option for those of you who have faith in your passwords.

Going back on the plan for your funeral, you may also want to keep a stash stored away that pays for your funeral. Since this is such a morbid topic, you may not want to reveal where this is before your death. Instead, include this information in your post-mortem records – just be sure someone will find it.


Making Memories

your digital afterlife

On a more sentimental note, you can use technology to handle your digital afterlife by means of memories. Photos, videos, and even blog posts are great ways to let people have a piece of you while you’re gone. Although bittersweet, you could also keep a private video log for your family that’s accessible via a secret YouTube channel or on a hard drive.

In this world, it’s not that morbid to keep someone alive via technological means. In the world of Harry Potter, Dumbledore stores his memories in the Pensieve. You can do the very same thing with a few hard drives, a camera, a voice recorder, and a word processor.

What other ways will you use technology to manage your final affairs? Are the above ways very effective? 


Image Credits: walknboston401(K) 2013, moominsean

Related topics: Identity Theft, Online Privacy, Virtual Identity.

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  1. Guy McDowell
    May 8, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Don't know how it is in other countries, but in Canada the cost of a bank held safety deposit box is completely tax deductible. Something to think about.

  2. dragonmouth
    May 8, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Many documents you mention can and should be kept in electronic form (HD, cloud, etc.). However, in the United States, any documents with raised seals or stamps (birth, death, marriage certificates, naturalization papers, etc.) MUST be retained in their original, hard-copy form. No copy of any type will be accepted except to document the original's existence. To be considered legal and binding, wills must be on proper, original, hard copy forms, witnessed and notarized. Hand-written wills must be notarized to be considered valid.

    Because she did not have a legal will when she died, it took close to two years for me to officially inherit my mother's estate even though I was her sole heir and survivor.