First off: I’m not a lawyer, I’m just someone who works in the digital part of life, and observed something when a friend died unexpectedly, so, take this for what it’s worth, and consider involving your personal attorney in this discussion as is appropriate.
On Monday the 6th of March, 2012, a bright light of the blogging world perished in a plane crash. With that, you can see where I’m going. Neptunus Lex had amassed a large readership since he began sharing his life in the cockpit, and as a husband, father, mentor and all round humorist and observer of life since he began blogging in 2003.
It was in his death, that I see an image of where we can all end up, if we don’t manage to “put our affairs in order” digitally, as it turns out, he hadn’t.
Short version: He had made a flight the day before and left a post regarding the issues of landing a high speed jet without a drogue chute, a condition he had just experienced. Presented in a matter of fact manner, as he was well suited to do. He left one more, commenting on an issue of government determination, and left to go and once more, train military pilots in the skies above Nevada. The bad weather closed in faster than expected and he was left with no place to land conventionally, and out of gas. It ended badly.
Here’s the rub: There were his thousands of blog readers, seeing no regular posts. The news got around from the local TV station about a crash of a particular jet, from a particular contractor, and, given the “silence,” we hoped it wasn’t CAPT Carroll LeFon, but it was.
So, the tough part: Your blog/FaceBook/Twitter/website/bank accounts/QuickBooks in the Cloud/etc, etc, etc now have no administrator, do they? “Lex” arrived here, not by design, I’m sure, being the through person he was, but by accident. Luckily, he had “left the keys” with someone about a year earlier, so another reader could at least “close out” the blog, notifying Lex’s readership (which, was worldwide, and a good case study of how to attract a large readership with good blogging) of the death.
Now: The main story: Who has your “keys?” It seems to me the world has not fully grasped, nor appreciated this end of life issue in a satisfactory manner quite yet. In the old days, your survivors could go to your filing system, pull out a folder or two or ten, and reconstruct things, albeit time consuming, it was generally available for this function. Bank accounts, business contracts, and other important documents. Yes, to some extent, you can say that about a computer, but, the reality, more often than not, is any business person will most likely be using programs such as QuickBooks, locally, or in the cloud, to track their business. Just how will your survivors handle yours?
First off, the simple and free way to approach this is to open up a Word Document, and begin to type up the programs/websites links, user names and passwords. Keep a shortcut on your desktop and make a habit (seriously, you have to do this well, or those left to handle your affairs are still in a mess) of, each time you go to “that site” or “that program” for the next first time, open it up and put the data in there. If you change a password/user name…do it again!
Note: If the site has password recovery questions, you know, like your mother’s maiden’s name, then make that part of your notes. Yes, they might know that one, but who will know your high school’s mascot all these years later besides you, or your favorite movie, or the nickname for your first child? Don’t leave it to chance.
Honestly, you’ll be surprised at how entrained your life is in the digital world. Some accounts, like maybe your one on Skype, may not matter, but it doesn’t hurt to document it, just in case. Know this: FaceBook won’t just send out login information to anyone, just because someone calls, says they are in charge of your affairs and they need to know your password. Even if there isn’t a “gatekeeper” for this information, if you don’t leave it accessible, you’re making it difficult for your family/business partners.
The next step is to decide who gets this information, and then to send it to them, with the serious note of the necessity and need for such a document. Know this: Once they have it, they have your “keys” to your life, so handle this with great thought.
I could continue to lay out details, but the main thrust of the post is: Record your digital access codes and make sure someone you trust has them. Not wishing an unanticipated ending here, but we all know it can happen. Do your part to make it easy on those left behind.
If you’re still reading, and, once more, would like to take a look at a blog that gathered a significant following, without paying anyone for SEO or help, get over to Neptunus Lex and scan the many years of posts in a variety of topics (categories). For those of you who understand the “Dash” discussed in eulogies, take time to read the now over 1600 comments in the final Open Thread. There is a story there about how one impacts lives in ways very unseen, or even known, just because you were you along this way in life. CAPT LeFon was such a a man, and the readership, many of whom will state they never have, or rarely, have bothered to comment, but they came and they read and they went away with something excpetional for themselves.