Your Will Should Cover Your Digital Life

A few years ago, I had an idea for a new profession: digital mortician (first mentioned here). When you die, this person assists your loved ones in dealing with your digital life, including your email, files, online accounts, etc. This profession may already exist, but it’s becoming an increasingly vexing problem. In fact, this person may need some legal skills as well (thanks to Gwendolyn for sending me this piece):

It’s an old story with a new twist. A young marine is killed in the line of duty and his parents request all his belongings, including his correspondence – in this case, his e-mail.

The Internet company refuses to give out the marine’s password, saying that would violate its privacy rules. The parents go to court, causing a storm of discussion on the Net and in the media.

I missed the ‘storm of discussion’–if anybody finds the eye of said storm, let me know.

I originally imagined the digital mortician because your loved ones:

  1. Would be in no state to wade through your computer
  2. Might have no idea how to find your online accounts
  3. Might not have the l33t password-hacking skillz necessary to bust into your protected files
  4. Should probably be protected from your vast collection of Hungarian duck porn

Clearly the legal issues need to be sorted out first. Of course, the suit only arose because the deceased’s email was hosted on Yahoo. If it was on his local computer, there wouldn’t have been a court case at all (but perhaps there should be).

What’s the lesson in all this? Specify in your will how your digital life should be managed after you move on to that great server farm in the sky. And you might want to choose an executor who knows a thing or two about Flickr.


  1. I know, I’ve been working on that. I fixed a couple of bad characters, but will speak with the Bloglines folks this week if it doesn’t sort itself out.

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