You know that we’re no longer living our lives the way our grandparents did (or still do) when you learn that a recent Harris poll commissioned by Rocket Lawyer (conducted online, surveying 2,009 U.S. adults), revealed that Americans have not yet appointed someone to inherit and/or oversee their “digital legacy.”
What is a digital legacy, you ask? It is all of your online presence that will remain out there after you pass away. As of now, the process of managing someone’s online profiles after they die is quite complicated: usually and in most cases, family members must reach out to individual websites and request deletion of a dead person’s accounts and profiles.
While Companies like Facebook and Twitter might not have even contemplated these kinds of decision when starting up, we have now entered the next generation of virtual living: several companies have started enacting policies for the smooth and specific management of online presence after death.
This past February, Facebook christened a “legacy contract” feature that allows living users to specify what they want to happen to their accounts after they pass on, and who of their family or friends will be allowed to post a final message, change information, and generally take over control of said accounts. Two years ago, Google initiated similar services that let users decide how they want their information handled after their deaths.
“I’m looking forward to the day when most, or all, Internet accounts allow people to name successors, like Facebook,” said Christopher Johnson, an attorney with Rocket Lawyer.
Any individual can, of course, independently designate another individual to take care of their virtual assets in a normal will. The recent poll, however, indicated that 70% of the American adults surveyed had not done so.
Furthermore, more than 50% of surveyed people didn’t even know about the existence of such a practice. A whopping 39% of respondents assumed that family members could easily access and deal with virtual presence after their death.
“It’s best to name successors like that on any accounts you have that allow you to do so, because that would make the process even easier than trying to communicate your court-granted authority to the right person at a faceless internet company,” said Johnson.
Half of surveyed subjects reported that they would want their online profiles deleted after they die, while 31% said that they would prefer to be memorialized in some way on those same platforms. Perhaps wisely, people felt strongest about protecting their online banking accounts and e-commerce accounts (Amazon, eBay, etc.) rather than social media profiles like those on Facebook and Instagram.