Who will inherit your digital assets?

digital assetsAs a rule, I prefer to be as prepared as possible for the future. I’m a scheduler, an organizer, a planner—and if there are unknown variables, I tend to make a Plan B and a Plan C to fit those optional outcomes. Some people think this is a little anal or OCD, but I think it’s simply efficient. I can’t get everything done that I want to do if I don’t organize it ahead of time!

So it makes sense that I have already put thought into planning my funeral and distributing whatever worldly wealth I may have accumulated by the time I leave this life. I’m not doing this to be controlling; I’m doing it to be helpful. I know you’ll be all-but-paralyzed with grief at my passing, so it seems considerate of me to put some plans together ahead of time. That’s just the kind of person I am. I give, and give, and give. You’re welcome.

The digital beyond

But here’s where I’m stuck:

What plans should I make for my digital assets when I’m no longer here to manage them?

Think about it. Think about how much of my life (and probably yours) happens digitally—through multiple email addresses, a LinkedIn profile, a LinkedIn business page, my own Facebook profile, the LifeLines Facebook page, and all the various Facebook pages I am an administrator of. That’s a lot of digital real estate! And some of it is “mine,” while some of it I simply steward for other businesses or nonprofits.

Not to mention the LifeLines blog and website! What should happen to all this incredibly profound and practical content? Should it simply disappear whenever my hosting term expires? Should I name someone my Digital Executor? Would anyone want to inherit that kind of responsibility? And would the people who follow me now want to follow someone who is simply administering my digital estate?

I don’t know.

The digital divide

In the material world, it’s normal for your family members to inherit your assets. But digital assets have different complications. I’m pretty sure no one in my family would consider it an honor to be named my digital heir. (They are annoyed enough with their own email and Facebook pages!)

There are a few people outside of my family who are on the other side of the digital divide. They have the technical chops to manage digital properties—but the reason I know they have the chops is that they already have their own digital properties! So it seems unlikely that inheriting mine would benefit them in any way.

Digital doubts

So I’m turning to you, LifeLines readers, for input. Have you made any plans for your online remains after you’re gone? Or is this a non-issue, and I’m being too OCD about it?

Who will inherit your digital assets?

Follow-up post: Digital Obituary Options


8 thoughts on “Who will inherit your digital assets?”

  1. Very thought provoking article Melanie. I have a friend who passed away almost 3 years ago. Her sister knew her password and made the decision to keep my friend’s Facebook account open. It’s creepy when a post from her appears on my newsfeed, knowing that she is gone.

    There was on article on Facebook some time ago regarding what happens to your content, and supposedly Facebook claims rights to all of it.

    • Yes, it’s tempting to believe that everything you post on Facebook is “yours,” but at best it’s a shared ownership with Facebook. There is a way you can download a file of all the content you’ve posted, but that only gives you a copy of everything; Facebook still has it too. In fact, a friend of mine once told me he cancelled his Facebook account and deleted his profile because he didn’t want them to have that much access to his life. When he changed his mind, he thought he would have to set up a new profile and start over. But Facebook asked him if he simply wanted to reactivate his old account—they still had everything! His profile hadn’t been “deleted” at all, just unpublished.

  2. I tend to be hesitant whenever I open a new area of digital involvement but I know there is more out there than I realize, some in “the cloud” , Facebook, email, bill pay accounts, etc. I am trying to complete a paper record of I.D.s, passwords, “security” questions, etc. if some one had to figure it all out without me. I have several family members who had dementia when they were just a few years older than I. We all would like to think we will live to a “ripe old age” whatever that is, but the truth is “Men and women don’t live very long; like wildflowers they spring up and blossom. But a storm snuffs them out just as quickly, leaving nothing to show they were here.” Psalm 103: 15 & 16 (The Message) However the next verse assures us: “God’s love, though, is ever and always, eternally present with all who fear Him,” (The Message) That is what keeps me from obsessing about what will happen when I am not here or able to function any longer.

  3. Very interesting what you wrote Melanie. I have thoughts from time to time about pre-planing my own obitiuary. Even though we don’t know when or how we are leaving this earth. I think about it I believe because I have some major health issues, and even before losing my brother at the age of 62 back in January unexpectedly. But all in all I think it is a personal choice, not ocd. LOL.

    As far as the digital executor, I again understand where you are coming from, you are a writer and have helped others and put so much good information out their. To me you appointing someone digital executor over your pages , blogs, emails or whatever would be a way for your legacy in this area to continue. I hope this helps some.

    • Thank you, Bev. I suppose all of life is about finding that balance between living wisely in the present and preparing wisely for the future. There are some things we can control and some things we can’t—the trick is knowing which is which!

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