Putting to Rest

Death-Proof Information Management

Susan’s dad John passed away when she was still very young. She and her sister Amy were the only two direct relatives, so they had to take care of everything. They had never had to deal with a death within such proximity. It was overwhelming to have to organize the funeral, go through all the bureaucratic processes, heritage and so on. After a couple of months, they managed to put his stuff more or less to rest. Finally they had a little time for grieving and mourning. This experience made her think about her possessions. She had some bank accounts spread across different countries where she had lived over the time. She was an active blogger, member of many online social networks and had many web-based accounts. She had an iPhone, several computers, hard drives, iPod, and so on. Susan cared a lot for her family and friends. She didn’t want anybody to go through all the painful situations that she encountered after her father’s death.

Choosing a Digital Executor

We communicate our wishes regarding our digital legacy to others by leaving behind instructions and creating our personal inventories. Appointing a digital executor is a good way to set our plans in action. The digital executor is a person responsible to act on our behalf after we pass away. Even though they don’t have any legally binding power or authorization, due to the current lack of legal support for digital artifacts and information, they can still carry out a wide range of activities.

Being a digital executor is a delicate role and sometimes it may be better played by a web-based service, rather than a physical person. We should select this person wisely. A technically minded person is a must. We have to have a high level of trust of this person, knowing that they won’t abuse their power, since they may have, for a certain amount of time, access to some of our digital assets. A friend may be a better option than a close family member, because they have an appropriate distance and won’t clutch at everything about us and feel unable to press the delete button. We can ask them to pass our digital artifacts and assets onto the appointed beneficiaries, to push our last messages, to cease our accounts or to change them to memorial state.