It plays out like one of those sappy, over-the-top, life insurance ads.
“If something happened to you tomorrow, who would care for your online personal brand?”
But it’s easy to forget that all the identities and accounts we’ve created on the web over the years will still be here long after we kick the bucket.
Facebook recently unveiled a new feature that addresses this issue: adding a legacy contact. Users now can designate a family member or close friend on Facebook to maintain their account when they die. A legacy contact can post to the deceased user’s timeline, respond to new friend requests and change the user’s profile or cover photo. They can also request a download an archive of the deceased user’s posts, photos and profile information.
Alternatively, users can opt to have their account permanently deleted upon their death, provided someone notifies Facebook of their passing.
This is simply a great feature, and every Facebook user should take advantage of it. If you’ve spent a considerable amount of time building a personal brand on Facebook, entrusting your account to a legacy contact ensures your posts remain accessible and keeps your profile free from unwanted or spam posts. Obviously, requesting your account be deleted eliminates these issues altogether.
And you shouldn’t stop there. Designate a legacy contact for all of your major online accounts, even for the sole purpose of deleting them upon your death. Think about all the types of accounts you may have online: social media, financial, music, entertainment, shopping, health care, travel … the list goes on.
These accounts -- especially those that use recurring payments like credit cards or Netflix -- could cause trouble for your estate if left unattended after you die. Dormant email and social accounts often are prone to spam or hacking. Take the time now to plan ahead.
Other major online players need to take a page from Facebook and build similar features. How amazing it would be to, in just a few clicks, achieve peace of mind knowing someone will be able to manage your online identity when you’re no longer able to. The third-party service Planned Departure lets users create a succession plan for their digital legacy, but it’s not unreasonable to expect services like LinkedIn, Mint, Gmail, iTunes and the like to step up and create a native legacy contact feature.
We choose people to take care of our tangible assets when we die; shouldn’t the same be true for our digital assets?
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Ensuring the things you rely on will work as expected cannot be a matter of chance, it must be part of the plan. This requires ongoing maintenance, updates and upgrades.