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Susan became really interested in everything related to personal information management. She was trying to figure out ways how she could do it herself, but she also experimented some of the newly available web-based services. She found exciting a service that enabled its users to plan for their funerals. She told Nick the next time they met. Nick just laughed and told her a story about his grandpa. When he was forty, he wrote down the contacts of all the people he wanted to have at his funeral. Everybody was joking about his funeral folder all the time. His grandpa maintained the list up-to-date for a long time. He passed away when he was eighty-two. All that Nick’s parents had to do was to pick up the folder and send the invitations to the people on the list.

Digital Estate Planning Services

Digital estate planning services are the next step in evolution after post-humous messaging. They allow us to update our information frequently and access it from anywhere. They are probably the best option for people who live on-the-go. They are perhaps the most controversial ones within the digital afterlife industry, because of their connection to very unstable legal frameworks and diverse company policies. They allow us to record and sometimes execute for us a wide range of wishes, including the distribution of our digital assets, or their deletion. These services normally keep entrusted information until someone activates the distribution process by denouncing the death. Generally, the activation process is triggered when a verifier, appointed as a trusted person by the user, reports the death. In some cases, the verifier also serves as a reference for double-checking if the death actually occurred, in other cases the services actually establish a contact with the Register Office.

My Web Will dates back to late 2008 and was intended as an insurance for an individual’s digital life. My Web Will can be described as a listing of the most common digital assets, with suggested options for actions to take after one dies. These suggestions make digital estate planning much easier and less time-consuming. A user is required to appoint two verifiers, who are informed about their role and asked to contact My Web Will should the user die. After the death is reported, My Web Will contacts the verifiers directly in order to retrieve a copy of the death certificate. When the verification process is over, the information left by the original user is decrypted and wishes are carried out automatically, either to distribute assets or delete the accounts.

Entrustet started in November 2008 and it has three main services. The first is called Account Guardian and lets users store any digital asset and decide what should happen to them after their death. Entrustet requires the users to define a digital executor to carry out their wishes as recorded within the service. The digital executor should be a physical person in order to make sure that the personal choices are in coherence with the arrangements in the legal will. The digital executor is asked to confirm the willingness to undertake the responsibility and, once the user dies, has to contact Entrustet to activate the inheritance process. During the verification process the digital executor has to provide a physical copy of the death certificate, which the company verifies afterwards with the local death register. The second service is called Account Incinerator and enables its users to appoint digital assets to be discretely deleted by Entrustet without users’ next-to-kin discovering that they had ever existed. Recently, Entrustet also added to their line-up a third service called Digital Property Search. This is aimed to the bereaved and helps them to find the deceased’s digital assets. Their blog provides useful information on how to delete some of these digital assets.

Legacy Locker was launched in the early 2009. It is one of the best known digital estate planning websites. Legacy Locker is a safe and convenient way to pass on one’s logins and web passwords to the next-of-kin in the case of death or incapacitation. The service is prepared to store any digital assets, important digital artifacts, such as scans of stock certificates, contracts, wills, trusts, deeds, or things in the wallet, as well as written and video legacy letters to be delivered online or in physical form. Legacy Locker’s verification process is similar to those already described above. They require the user to choose two verifiers who are responsible to denounce the user’s death. After this, they are contacted by the company to provide a physical copy of the death certificate. Once the death is verified, the automatic actions are triggered.

Data Inherit is based in Switzerland and uses principles of bank data protection. It allows the user to store digital assets and documents within a simple database interface and to assign a beneficiary for each. The user prints out a 36-character password and bequeathes it to a trusted person who is in charge of the distribution process activation. The user sets up a delay period, during which is contacted by Data Inherit. If the user doesn’t answer, the distribution process is activated. In addition to web-based service, Data Inherit offers an iPhone app and both are regularly synchronized.