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Your Digital Inheritance? 370

eldavojohn writes "I wrote a journal entry musing on the idea of passing on accounts and digitally stored information from generation to generation. Has anyone done this or inherited anything? Does anyone else plan to do this? Is there a slip of paper in your deposit box at the bank with websites, account names and passwords?"
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Your Digital Inheritance?

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  • by bwthomas ( 796211 ) <.bwthomas. .at.> on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:12PM (#15068123)
    Everyone gather round! I'm going to open grandpa's tarball ...
    • by zaft ( 597194 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:14PM (#15068144) Homepage
      Finding Grandpa's p0rn could be rather disturbing... especially for Grandma!
      • by Asshat Canada ( 804093 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:20PM (#15068221)
        ...especially featuring Grandma.
      • by Alex P Keaton in da ( 882660 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:28PM (#15068309) Homepage
        In all seriousness, don't joke about that.
        I have a "friend" whose grandfather died, and when he had to help his mother clean out his grandfathers stuff, there were erotic pictures of my "friend's" grandmother (At least the pics were from the 40's, and not from when she was 80). Traumatizing.
        But it does bring up a good point- Perhaps have a box where you keep your porn that says "throw out w/out opening if I die" or at least have a deal with a friend that whomever dies first, the other will do a porn sweep.
        One of the reasons I have always hoped that I get a message from God a day or two before I die, is because I would freak out if I had to look down (or up) after death and watch my mother in law clean out my wife and my sex toy stash.
        • I would freak out if I had to... watch my mother in law clean out my wife Yup, that'd freak most people out.
        • by pla ( 258480 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @07:18PM (#15071796) Journal
          One of the reasons I have always hoped that I get a message from God a day or two before I die, is because I would freak out if I had to look down (or up) after death and watch my mother in law clean out my wife and my sex toy stash.

          Pah! Why feel ashamed of your porn/toy collection?

          Dildoes number heavily among the oldest known human artifacts - even the single oldest well-preserved artifact, the "Venus of Willendorf", some scholars have argued may have served as an artificial phallus (go ahead and look at the "hair" on it and tell me it doesn't resemble some form of sex toy, "ridged for her pleasure"!).

          I have porn. I have toys. I have no shame regarding them... If my own mother found them while plant-sitting, I'd proudly say that yes, I use them to great personal/mutual pleasure with my SO.

          I just don't get how a sexually reproducing species turned into a culture of such pathetic prudes! Humans... Like... Sex! We spend a disproportionate amount of time seeking it, we spend virtually all of our free time from our late-teens through late-twenties doing it, we'll lose sleep and food over it. Wherein lies the "shame" of having "accessories"?
      • by runlvl0 ( 198575 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:15PM (#15068904) Homepage Journal
        Susan: That er, that Steve guy; how well do you know him? Are you close?
        Jeff: Close? We're porn buddies!
        Susan: Porn buddies?
        Jeff: Oh, yeah.
        Susan: Is this code? Were you in prison together or something?
        Jeff: No, no, no it's simple; it's a safety precaution, like a scuba driver swims with a buddy in case he runs out of air.
        Susan: Okay, okay. Are you telling me that a porn buddy stands by with oxygen?
        Jeff: No. Many years ago, me and Steve exchanged house keys--
        Susan: Are you sure this isn't code?
        Jeff: It isn't code.
        Susan: Alright.
        Jeff: In the event of Steve's death the first thing I would do --upset though I will be-- is go straight to his house and remove all the pornography before his parents can find it.
        Susan: You're kidding!
        Jeff: And he's pledged to do the same for me. That's how close we are!
        Susan: You two have seriously made plans to destroy each other's dirty mags?
        Jeff: Who said, "destroy?" Remove.
        Susan: you wouldn't keep them?
        Jeff: It's a perk.
        Susan: Oh, Jeff.
        Jeff: That's the beauty of it, you see. Your best friend's dead, but there's a bright side!
  • They'd find my DVD backups.
  • by AltGrendel ( 175092 ) <> on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:14PM (#15068135) Homepage
    You know, as the elder hacker ages, he hands off his identity to the young hacker who has learned his 733t ski77z!
  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:14PM (#15068143)
    Does anyone else plan to do this? Is there a slip of paper in your deposit box at the bank with websites, account names and passwords?

    Why yes, in fact, there is!
    And imagine their surprise as my offspring open up my safe deposit box only to find a piece of paper with my Slashdot login & password and a note about trying to only post comments that are informative, insightful, interesting, or funny.
    • We can pass on low slashdot numbers? Cool!
    • So, is discovering that dear ol' Uncle DG had a 3-digit UID anything like finding a box of old IBM stock or something?

      Do famous UID's appreciate?

      Will CleverNickName's progeny inherit a ton of /. fans?

      How manu UIDs have shuffled off this moral coil? Should there be a virtual graveyeard for the UIDs of the deceased?

      Is there historical value to the early musings of UID so-and-so, who went on to become the first Supreme Hegemon of the Terran Aliance?

      Will far-future biologists marvel at the distended rectums of
    • Imagine a /. account being in continuous use for 150 years. (Imagine /. being around that long.) Digital accounts obviously can have a life independent of their owners. I wonder how many low number /. accounts have actually been sold on Ebay.
      • "... I wonder how many low number /. accounts have actually been sold on Ebay."

        Brings new meaning to the term "Estate Sale".

        "Next up for bid, this wonderful Slashdot account. Only slightly tarnished with an a Karma rating of Excellent, and a six digit ID. If this isn't your cup of tea, we'll be auctioning off an authentic World of Warcraft account. These are very popular with the "retro set" as Blizzard has graciously kept one sever running for die-hard fans, even though they have not allowed new account

      • A 2 digit slashdot UID went for $115 two years ago. 7887 []

    • This kind of reminds me of ham radio callsigns.

      At least here in the US, the "choice" vanity callsigns are the ones that are either short, or use Morse Code letters that are particularly easy to type (sort of the Morse equivalent of having a mnemonic phone number), or both. It's not uncommon for people to hang on to callsigns like that until they die, and then they go back out into the system and are available for re-use after two years. I don't know how common it is for them to get passed down from one gene
  • Taxes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lgw ( 121541 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:15PM (#15068153) Journal
    If you can inherit it, the government will want to tax it. It's a bit worrisome that someone who inherits a website, or even an online identity, with a good reputation and lots of traffic will one day have to pay a percentage of a value the government arbitrarily assigns.
  • by jigjigga ( 903943 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:16PM (#15068170)
    havent had it happen, but I have an archive of "my stuff"- being basically I have created on a computer since in middle scool (when computers replaced pen and paper for me). One day I'll be able to find all of that stuff and rummage through it. Could be cool. I feel sorry for the people, among my generation, who dont backup anything they make on a computer... because I know they dont produce anything on paper... A generation with no past is bad news.
    • The past will be online, as long as servers keep running.. but yes I would hope that people save what they create.. it's much easier nowadays to transfer information (for example I dont have the sourcecode to a game I wrote in Amos BASIC on my Amiga, but I found a random website online that had the compiled version which I once submitted to 'Amiga Format' :D), so easier to keep backups.. and it would be a shame if people lost everything they made (though I cant help but be cynical and just think that most p
    • Really, it isn't very likely that our generation will show up as big black hole i human history. Even though we percentually use computers and volatile media alot more than previusly. In actual numbers we create a lot of more media than before. It's more likely that historians some generations forward will have big problems going trough all the data than having problems finding any.

      Somehow I suspect that even hundreds and thousands of years from now much of our data will be avaible in some form.
  • Kind of.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:18PM (#15068194) Homepage
    I had a good friend pass away a few years ago. I knew all his passwords and stuff, and have poked through his Hotmail account from time to time, just for the sentimental value.

    Interestingly, he still about 50-100 spam emails per day.
    • Re:Kind of.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheRealBurKaZoiD ( 920500 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:05PM (#15068790)
      My best friend passed away almost seven years ago. A couple of months after the funeral I was surfing the web when suddenly his screen name on my AIM list lit up as if he had just signed on! Totally freaked me out, until I found out it was his wife checking his email. It would happen every so often until finally I had to remove the entry from my buddy list, and I even went so far as to block the screen name. I know she took his death really hard, but I found it to be exceptionally creepy. I think she paid his account for a few years after that, just to keep the screen name.

      IMHO, it's better to walk away from death than to wallow in it.
    • Re:Kind of.... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Surt ( 22457 )
      What, you didn't send the spammers remove notices? I sent them all remove notices to let them know I 'died' *wink* *wink* and now I don't get any spam at all.

    • by qray ( 805206 )
      I knew all his passwords and stuff

      So is this his slashdot account or yours? ;-)
    • by Dirtside ( 91468 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @04:19PM (#15070171) Journal
      Interestingly, he still about 50-100 spam emails per day.
      He still? He still what? He still sends 50-100 spams per day? That'd give new meaning to the term "zombie."
  • No way (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OglinTatas ( 710589 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:19PM (#15068208)
    I even have my hard drive encrypted so if I should die suddenly, no one has to search through my porn. One's porn says a lot about a person, most of which should probably be left unsaid.
    • Meh, that's too much work to deal with when you're alive. As long as you can trust your loved ones to abide by your last wishes, put "format hard drive plz" in teh will.
      • In addition, who cares what happens to themselves after they're dead? Unless you believe you're up in heaven afterwards looking down to people, that is. You're dead. You don't care.

        "Oh no, my memory might be tainted!" You don't care. You're dead :)
  • Hmmm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Alex P Keaton in da ( 882660 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:19PM (#15068209) Homepage
    I imagine I would give all my music to my sister- but when I lent her a laptop a year or so ago, she guessed my password on the first try (It is actually a fairly strong 14 character password that would stand up to a dictionary attack), so I guess she could get whatever she wanted if I die :)
    My music is the only non software thing that I have paid for, file wise, on my computer.
    But truth is, I sincerily hope all my software is obsolete by the time I die!
    Anyone remember the case of the guy who died in Iraq, and his parents wanted his Yahoo password to see what was in there for sentimentality? I believe Yahoo ended up having to give the password to his parents...
    When I was deployed however, my wife and I sent some emails that I definately wouldn't want my parents seeing, so I think this guys p-word should have stayed private....
    • Re:Hmmm (Score:3, Insightful)

      by flynt ( 248848 )
      How did she guess a 14 character strong password? Even if it was a word, the chances are extremely remote she'd guess on the first try. I bet there was a keylogger on your system, or some other means besides chance. Too unlikely.
      • Re:Hmmm (Score:3, Interesting)

        It was the name of my grandparents house (they lived on the east coast and for some reason beach people out there name their houses, this one with an american indian name) and a number that she know I would use (no it wasnt 69)
    • Don't worry, after she divorces you all those hot emails make great court fodder.

  • by iXiXi ( 659985 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:20PM (#15068214)
    I am quite sure that mine would be quarantined due to virus or file corruption. A true eulogy to my life experience with MS products.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:20PM (#15068222)
    In the case of my death, I have a document labeled as such in my data collection. There are some instructions and passwords. This file is encrypted with the key held by my lawyer.

    I also have plans of sending out a "dead man's switch" email.

    The worst things I have seen are the web pages of the recently departed. There are static pages out there that only the owners can change due to privacy and passwords.

  • wow (Score:2, Funny)

    by earthstar ( 748263 )
    A slashdot story linking to /. journal !

    What next,a story linking to a /. comment?

    • Dammit, the story's slashdotted! Oh, wait...
  • Longevity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Douglas Simmons ( 628988 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:22PM (#15068242) Homepage
    How long do CDs last (industrial pressed/CDR/CDRW) before photovoltalic decay?
  • The mind reels (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ktappe ( 747125 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:23PM (#15068256)
    Imagine all the different media formats that lawyers will now have to keep in their offices to read inherited data for their clients. If we'd started digital inheritances earlier, lawyers today would need 8" floppy drives, 5 1/4" floppy drives, Syquest drives, punch card readers, etc.

    I guess that's not so bad; we aging I.T. types can soon get jobs in legal offices maintaining their legacy equipment.


    • From the legal offices I've seen, the real problem is buying them current equipment. They sure like their DOS machines and WordPerfect at the local legal office.
  • Subpoena (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Krach42 ( 227798 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:24PM (#15068265) Homepage Journal
    I'd rather not leave my account names and passwords in a safe deposit box that could be subpoenad if the feds ever had a reason to.

    Considering that they can subpoena your diary, and use it against you in a court of law, the only place safe to keep your passwords is in your head. And then, what with keyloggers, it's only safe if you don't use it also.
    • On screen keyboard with random window location, use your mouse.
      • On screen keyboard with random window location, use your mouse.

        Yes, but this falls prey to the very same over-the-shoulder attack that is why we print * in some password fields, and in the most secure password fields, nothing at all (since then they can't even learn the length.)

        • Yes, but you trade off optical security (shoulder surfing) for mechanical security (keylogger).
          At home or at my office I am unconcerned with shoulder surfing as by my workspace layout no-one can be behind me without my knowledge. I am, however concerned with keyloggers.
          In the case of a public computer I am concerned with everything, and consequently do not authenticate to anything at all.
          I run a server with a CGI app that allows me to paste URLs, blobs of text, or upload files. It will download the URL, s
  • Website (Score:4, Insightful)

    by donutz ( 195717 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:24PM (#15068271) Homepage Journal
    "Is there a slip of paper in your deposit box at the bank with websites, account names and passwords?"

    What about a bit of money invested with instructions specifying that that money is to be used to continue payments for web hosting/domain registration for any website(s) that you have now and want to continue on after you're gone? This is something that I've considered, but to date, haven't acted on.

    If you have a blog, maybe it'd be worth considering a plan to have it export it to static HTML and just having that hosted at Geocities/GooglePages, unless you plan on posting from beyond the grave. :)
  • by hhr ( 909621 )
    I have a public blog that I've been keeping since 2000. I don't hype it or advertise it. I do post to it regularly. It's full of good memories. Sometimes it's usefull for answering questions like "What hotel did I stay at when I was on vacation last year?"

    After six years, it has a lot of content. Content that I don't want to go away just because I die and fail to sign onto my account. I plan on including the account name and password in my will, so that my decendants can maintain the account.

    It makes me smi
  • child will receive the coveted "Floppy Disk of Power", unlocking all my secrets... sadly, the floppy will have been stored with my refrigerator magnet collection...
    • And when they pull it out, they'll be confused what it is. All they'll know it as is that "save" icon in Windows.

      Tragically, there will be no way to use it without learning to build a floppy drive from scratch that somehow can connect to their data matrix, but even the thought of an "external storage device" will elude them.
    • Anyone worthy of carrying the FDoP simply must have the knowledge and skills to perform a low-level disk analysis and recovery.

      It's part of the mystique, you see.

  • Family domain name (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sundiver90 ( 695540 )
    I am interested in good answers to this as well. Before yahoo, gmail, etc. I was moving jobs and decided on getting a family domain name so I could keep the same email address. Now that domain hosts email for most of my family. I'd like to put the domain name in my will along with instructions to transfer it since I'm the point of contact.
  • by moochfish ( 822730 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:29PM (#15068335)
    "Son... I want you to have my porn when I'm gone."
  • I have a small paper with instructions for my family to say goodbye to my online friends and post about my death, just in case.

    Regarding online goods, I have none, save a few anime fanfics i've written, but those are online for everyone to see.

    But I doubt game accounts would matter. Games get obsolete pretty quick, and the current state of information is awful. The best I can pass to the next generations is work contributed to open source projects - it's like investing for the future generations.
  • If you have lots of important information (pictures, music, diaries, archives, etc) on an external site, **do not assume in any way** your loved ones will be able to get access to them when you pass on. Most all sites * do not* have a policy around this, and will probably end up flat out refusing you, or just deleting the info.

    If you are the kind of person who stores los of stuff externally, the best thing you could do is keep a hard copy of everything to pass down. If this is not possible, keep a hard copy
  • by snowwrestler ( 896305 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:30PM (#15068357)
    I'm not likely to live to see copyright expire on the iTMS songs in my iTunes library, but my kids might. Yet no DRM system I'm aware of makes allowance for passage into public domain.

    Copyright must be limited; apparently it can be a hell of a long limit, but Constitutionally it must be limited in the U.S. And everyone knows that digital files don't age--as long as you keep them on fresh media they will sound just as good (if not better) 300 years from now. Yet there are no limits placed into DRM systems, nor sunset provisions to remove the DRM when the copyright expires.

    This seems to me to be a system that actually prevents compliance with a Constitutional mandate. Why hasn't this been an avenue of legal challenge to DRM yet?
    • Because DRM has nothing to do with copyright. Imagine the corresponding technology with books: they might put a glaze on every sheet of paper to make it impossible to photocopy. Just because the work passes into public domain doesn't mean they have to go out and deglaze every book, it just means it becomes legal for you to copy the book if you want to and can. The can being the interesting part of the equation. If it should still prove to be impossible to copy the book ... well then I suppose the compan
    • I'm not likely to live to see copyright expire on the iTMS songs in my iTunes library, but my kids might. Yet no DRM system I'm aware of makes allowance for passage into public domain.

      That's right, because the purveyors of DRMed material are not going to allow any of that material to enter the public domain. Endless copyright extensions is the name of the game. Don't think that it's some kind of oversight on their part -- remember that if the content's copyright expires, then it would no longer be a DMCA
    • Yet there are no limits placed into DRM systems, nor sunset provisions to remove the DRM when the copyright expires.

      I think you'll find that most DRM systems have provisions for removing the DRM, theyre just not provided by the same people that made the DRM to begin with.

  • by Churla ( 936633 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:38PM (#15068464)
    At the moment my wife knows that for any given site I have an account on there's a list of probably account names and a list of probable passwords. A few she remembers the combinations for. These are mostly financial in the case something unforeseen should happen to me (Like the other Illuminati realizing I talk about them on websites).

    More and more I see the reality that family websites, and other hosting/presences become heirlooms after time. My in-laws already like that my wife and I put some photos up on a website for them to be able to get to, I can see that expanding. Eventually the family website might be the magical thing that is passed down from matriarch to matriarch within a family the way the photo albums are now. Someday my son or daughter may be maintaining the old site and see blogs I posted and get all misty eyed like I do about the stopwatch my grandfather left to me.

    Now my porn? Well that I will be encrypting.. for all the reasons mentioned above.
  • eep (Score:2, Funny)

    by Bizzeh ( 851225 )
    they would probably arrest my kids, and my kids kids, and my kids kids kids for the mounds of illegal software i have :)
  • porn! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fëanáro ( 130986 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:45PM (#15068528)
    During the funeral:
    "And now, as expressed in his will, all the porn on Dale's computer will be shown to the mourners."

    Now that's a way to go!
    If I ever work up the guts I might put something like this in the will.

    got the idea from this comic []
    (which I hereby shamelessly plug, because they deserve to be slashdotted)
  • Sort of.

    We just went through this when we updated wills. We made sure to make a list of each others web accounts and access credentials. That way if anything happens to either or both of us our survivors won't have issues around access to financial accounts, utilities, subscriptions, etc.

    Now I need to figure out who to leave my Slashdot account to.

  • Did you ever visit the webpage of a person you know is dead? It's kinda creepy.

    You know that those keystrokes left behind were written by him. His creation. And the person who wrote this is no more. No more content added. Never again.

    Sure, it would be a hell lot more creepy if there WAS content added some time after he died, but still...

    But somehow I wouldn't want my blog, my page, my accounts simply vanish without a trace. Or go stale and idle forever. I'd like to see them continued, if only for a last sta
  • by celardore ( 844933 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:51PM (#15068607)
    If I were to leave any of my 'online property' to anybody, it would most likely be one of my friends. Mum & Dad wouldn't know what to do with my stuff. My friends might like to poke through my various php, and other, projects I've done over the years.

    I own a couple of domains, one is celardore based, and the other is my IRL name. It would be cool to leave some money behind - say enough for domain registration of my IRL name for 100 years, and then have the URL on my tombstone. After it runs out? I won't care.
  • Online Communities (Score:3, Interesting)

    by daitengu ( 172781 ) * on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:06PM (#15068797) Homepage Journal
    I'm a sysadmin for some very large online communities. At the very least, my wife knows which communities I frequent so in the event that I should meet some sort of untimely demise, she can notifiy those people I talk to on a regular basis.

    This actually happened with one moderator at one of the forums I frequent [], She passed away suddenly and someone in her family notified the admins on the site. We got a huge collection together and sent a whole bunch of money to her family.

  • Domain names (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:07PM (#15068816)
    You can now register domain names for 100 years. Is it possible to inherit a domain name?

    I can picture it now:

    "Being of sound mind and body, I do herby bequeath to my heirs....."

  • My Life Bits (Score:2, Interesting)

    by UniAce ( 713592 )

    Check out the My Life Bits [] project.

    From the description: "MyLifeBits is a lifetime store of everything. It is the fulfillment of Vannevar Bush's 1945 Memex vision including full-text search, text & audio annotations, and hyperlinks. There are two parts to MyLifeBits: an experiment in lifetime storage, and a software research effort."

    Too bad it doesn't seem to be publicly available at all, let alone for Mac OS X or Linux.

  • to store all my secrets in a 1 pixel gif on my website.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:19PM (#15068942) Homepage
    Mine is in a 32meg USB thumb drive sealed in a 35mm film can that is in a sealed ziplock baggie buried in a geocache. My children get to go on a really fun wild hunt for that info.

    The fun is that there are 3 more caches with only Lattitude and longitude for the next cache....

    I so love screwing with people 50 years from now.
    • Don't worry, in 50 years, the location of those 35mm cannisters will be plowed under to make way for a parking lot or a building or some other item to further corporate interests. So much for your inheritence ;)

  • by rjnagle ( 122374 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:42PM (#15069145) Homepage
    Hi, I've thought long and hard about this. (I'm actually in the middle of having a will made to take this into account). Let me say that there's not a lot of good options and almost no archiving services exist for handling personal digital content. You really need to document your intentions clearly (preferably on the webpage you produced it on--Creative Commons Attribution license, for example), because it is hard to depend on people following these intentions after you die.

    Lawyers who prepare wills are loathe to touch copyright issues in your will (especially when the financial value is hypothetical). That requires getting a copyright attorney. The best thing to do is appoint a dependable/knowledgable executor or trustee (see below).

      My suggestions:

    1)sign a durable power of attorney to a close friend or family member. That gives them access to bank acccounts and web acccounts. (I don't think executors can do this without a court order). Usually you can download a form from the net for free.

    2)Emphasize to executors and family members about the first thing they need to do when you die: FIND OUT WHO ARE THE WEBHOSTS AND ENSURE THOSE THINGS CONTINUE TO BE PAID. Nongeeky people are clueless about this. (also, it might be good checking into webhost policies for handling nonpayment of webhosting).

    3)A yearly zip file consisting of contact information of friends, account info, and passwords would be a good idea. I'll leave it to slashdotters to figure out how to safeguard this.

    4)I'm a writer/content producer and I created a testamentary trust for someone living after me to archive my creative content. That said, unless you pay lots of legal fees to draw up something more elaborate, it's hard to depend on your executor or trustee to handle the archiving duties well. The best way to ensure that "sensitive information" doesn't get tossed aside or shared inappropriately is to bequeath your computer equipment to someone with the discretion and technical proficiency to know what needs to be done.

    5)I should reiterate the necessity of making a good list of people to contact after your death. My siblings and parents have absolutely no idea who needs to be contacted. Some of these contacts would be in a better position to know what to do and what kinds of online content you have.

    6)obviously media backups are a good idea.

  • by linuxwrangler ( 582055 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:50PM (#15069243)
    My mother died a few years ago and my father died last year. Fortunately death wasn't a taboo subject in our family and also my parents believed in preparation. My father left us a document detailing all of his accounts, the web sites associated with them, the logins and passwords, etc. There were a couple of gaps but it was mostly complete. He had also detailed the relevant stock prices as of my mother's death which saved a lot of time in tax preparation and allowed us to quickly identify which assets should be sold to limit tax liability.

    My parents had established trusts which vastly simplified handling of the estate. I had transfered his memorial society membership and pre-selected a cremation facility so when he died, we just had to make one phone call and transport, cremation, death-certificates, etc. were all handled.

    Still, the whole death thing has been a learning experience.

    When things have been done correctly, handling things is a breeze. The house and larger accounts were in the trust and we were properly named as successor trustees on the accounts. Disbursing them was simply a matter of providing a death-certificate, disbursal instructions and a couple signatures.

    When the Ts aren't crossed and Is not dotted, things are more of a problem. My father had a small checking account on which he forgot to list beneficiaries. Although it amounts to less than 0.1% of the estate it was more work to deal with than the large accounts.

    Email and electronic access presents an interesting problem. Just try to close a paypal account when you don't have access to the email of the deceased. Fortunately, I had my dad's laptop (and he was using my email server to handle his mail) so I was able to "forget" the password and ultimately to cancel the account. It also allowed me to unsubscribe from his mailing lists and made it easier to transfer control of various web accounts.

    Check caching is a pain, too. Turn in your FastTrak transponder, cancel the landline, insurance, cell service, internet service, etc., and submit final insurance claims. Suddenly you will get a bunch of checks made out to the dead person. When you notify financial institutions that a person has died they freeze the accounts and cashing checks made out to the deceased is an exercise in paperwork. You also have to track down things that are on autopay. Then when you cancel them you may ultimately find money appearing in accounts that you thought you had closed. While not "legal", I was told by an attorney that things are a lot easier if at least one financial institution doesn't know the person is dead. Tell them only after you have deposited all the checks.

    My advice....

    If you care for your loved ones, take a moment in the next couple days to make a list of all of your accounts. Then verify the beneficiary information on all of them.

    Make funeral arrangements. In our family this was easy since none of us are into forking over cash to the "death mafia" and so have opted for the least expensive cremation available through the local memorial society. When my neighbor died (expectedly at 90+), her son suddenly realized that he didn't know what to do next so he called the fire department. It's nice to have things pre-arranged so you aren't stuck thinking, "now what am I supposed to do" at an already difficult time. It also makes you less vulnerable to fast-talking funeral arrangers.

    If you have assets in excess of $100,000 (in California, anyway), establish a trust. And assets != net worth. You may owe $599,000 on your $600,000 house but the asset still exceeds $100,000 and your loved ones will have to slog through probate which is a royal pain involving $$$, lawyers, courts and time. It's also all open to the public. With a properly drawn trust your successors may not need a lawyer at all and your business will stay private. (We have an attorney for the occasional question but have handled nearly all the estate ourselves.)

    Given the overwhelming amount of time required just to deal with a house and two lifetimes of collected stuff, I'm extremely thankful that we aren't dealing with probate, too.
    • I just started a website a few weeks ago, and would love to get stories of people who have gone through this. It helps to let people know of some of the headaches their loved ones will face if they don't prepare ahead of time. The website will be used to get the word out that, just like our real life, we have to prepare our online life for our passing. Would love to hear from you (just email me if you're interested in contributing).
  • by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:52PM (#15069270) Homepage Journal
    A friend of mine passed away after a battle with cancer, and her website was the last thing left of her to the public. Her site was something of a central repository for not only her personal things, but also some reference material that was quite useful to her church. I offered to archive and host her site indefinitely, but before I could do anything about it her domain name / hosting account happened to run out, and nobody who wasn't her could do anything to renew it. I believe the domain is still owned by a goddamn domain squatter these days, and the content vanished with her own computer, which had been reformatted and passed to someone else. Ever since then I have my account info, passwords, and backups of major stuff written down and stashed away somewhere safe. I also warn people against letting domain name providers host the sites they're connected to, since having access to either the host or the name would have let us keep something rather than losing it all in one fell swoop.
  • by nuggz ( 69912 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @03:37PM (#15069746) Homepage
    All this inheritance stuff keeps reminding me of peoples greed.

    On too many occasions the offspring sue the deceased estate to overturn the will and get "what's rightfully theirs". In many cases the elderly have to fight for the right to control their own property against their overzealous offspring.

    Digital inheritance will start a whole new fight over the IP of the deceased.

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel