Death and the Digital Environment.

This may seem a fairly gloomy topic to be writing about, but it is one of the few certainties about our life is that it will eventually end. So it a good idea to think about what will happen when you are no longer here.

Your family and friends will know of your parting; and if you have prepared there will be a will indicating your wishes about how your property, assets and other matters are dealt with.

But have you considered your online life? Accounts on social networking sites, such as Facebook, remain active, how will your online friends know of your passing? Maybe you participate in online strategy games, or regularly contribute to forums under a pseudonym. This digital existence will continue drifting endlessly, if silently, though cyberspace. More importantly are things such as online bank accounts; and accounts with online businesses with which there may be a recurring subscription.

All of these need to be closed down gracefully, but unless ones nearest and dearest know of their existence and how to access them, this may prove very difficult, if not impossible. Many organisations expect you to deal with them almost exclusively online, so unless you provide your executors, or another appointed person with the means to access these accounts, it can be very difficult to sort things out after you have gone. It becomes tantamount that in addition to leaving a will, you nominate a trusted person to deal with your ‘digital legacy’, and you must leave them with the wherewithal to do this.

But how do you achieve this? Those of us who “cyber savvy” will use strong passwords, online banking usually needs a card-reader or dongle in addition. Leaving a list of instructions in a sealed envelope with this ‘trusted person’ or your solicitor is one option, but a very poor one; you may live for many decades yet and the computing environment never stands still. Some organisations insist on password change at least every 12 months. In fact, as I prepare this post, I am waiting receipt of a new security device from one bank, which will be the 3rd such change in log-in security in the past 5 years. So you would have to keep supplying our trusted person with updated instructions!

Online Services

There are several online services which permit you to store password securely, where you can keep them regularly updated. But that would mean supplying your trusted person with the password for such a service, whilst you are still alive and can you trust them? Even if you do trust them, and you find unusual transactions on your bank account, the first question that the bank will ask you is “Does anyone else have access to your passwords?” Once you mention that your daughter or nephew has the key to everything, they will dismiss your complaint without further ado.


But everything is not lost; I have come across a Swiss based web service which takes care of this. They have a very cool way of protecting this information whilst you are alive and fully compos mentis, yet allowing your executors or other ‘beneficiaries’ after you have departed or become incapacitated . This mechanism is a ‘time-lock’ which you can set for a particular number of hours or days.  Should someone attempt to use it inappropriately, you get an alert via email and SMS giving you time to block access.  On the other hand, should one no longer be in the land of the living and capable, once the time period has expired your chosen beneficiaries will have access.

The service is SecureSafe, and you can sign up for FREE by visiting SecureSafe

However, the free service is quite limited, only 50 passwords and only one beneficiary -whereas in most circumstances one would want a fall-back person. Thus I strongly recommend using the paid service.


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