The Digital Afterlife And Why It Matters

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
Estate planning experts say it is essential to draw up a will, preferably soon after marriage and definitely after having a first child. ( Two pretty simple ways to do this is through LegalZoom, or It is also prudent to designate a healthcare decision maker, a financial power of attorney, and a living trust.  These make your wishes known, and save a lot of confusion, court time and expense for heirs.
Chuck Allcorn, Market President at Hawthorn Bank, advises that a plan should be made for a trusted person to take care of affairs when you are no longer able to. He said that safety deposit boxes are a secure way to store wills, accounting information, as well as other valuables. No one can get into the boxes without a key, and it is advisable to give an additional key to the trusted person who will handle affairs in your absence. Allcorn said that customers with keys to their safety deposit boxes are welcome to take videos of the contents in the boxes for safekeeping elsewhere.
“There are cases when only one person has a key to a safety deposit box, and when that person dies, no one else has access,” said Allcorn. “If a trusted person has a key, ensure that his or her name is on the account, in order for that person to be allowed into the box.”
Fairly new to the estate planning arena is digital afterlife. There are companies that allow users to store account numbers, passwords, files, instructions and other information in online safe deposit boxes, and allows you to designate online beneficiaries who will receive access to certain accounts or online assets after death. Two of these companies are AssetLock, and SecureSafe. 
But what about social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter? Does your profile continue on after you die? This is what Jed Brubaker, assistant professor in the Information Science department of the College of Media Communication and Information, at University of Colorado, has been studying for years. According to, he has been instrumental in helping tech companies grapple with the tricky unknowns surrounding afterlife. In February 2015, inspired by Brubaker’s research, Facebook launched a feature allowing users to designate a steward, or “legacy contact,” who – in the event of their demise – could write a final post, change or update profile or cover photos, and download photos to share with loved ones not on Facebook. It also came up with a memorialized page design, including the word “Remembering,” to indicate that he or she had passed. Brubeck’s lab is also mulling technological fixes that could help social media companies better detect when someone has died so that precautions can be made to protect the deceased’s  account.
For more information about managing a deceased person’s account, go to 
LivesOn is an app that can keep a Twitter personality active after the owner has died. This includes creating new posts and even interacting with other users. 
DeathSwitch is a service that doesn’t require a designated executor to send out communications after death. The site sends periodic emails to users, which they must then respond to in order to let the site know they’re still alive. If the service doesn’t receive a response in the time period designated by the user, it determines that the user has died or has been seriously injured. Messages, including account passwords and last wishes, are then sent to those designated.
Allcorn suggested that online services are probably 99 percent secure, but that it is a good idea to look at the security of digital afterlife services before handing over your sensitive information.
Warsaw Senior Center, County Services Director, Teresa Torrence, says that Care Connection for Aging Services offers a presentation called “Five Wishes” at the Warsaw and Cole Camp Senior Centers. The workshop addresses developing a living will that speaks to personal emotional and spiritual needs, as well as your medical wishes. 
“We also offer free copies of the “Five Wishes” booklets as well as a fill-in-the-blank publication called “I Have Put my House in Order,” said Torrence. “In case of an emergency or death, that brochure provides a digest of where to look for important documents, whom to see for  a variety of information, and a list of what a person owns. For more information on either, contact Care Manager Dee Locke at the Warsaw Senior Center, 660-438-3300.