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Virtual Estates and Trust

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Where will your family go to remember you after you die? Hint: The answer is not a graveyard.

I sometimes wonder what would happen if I abandoned my social media presence. Well I got my answer the other day when LinkedIn managed to make me feel awkward in my own office. Several of my connections have died over the years, so it was a little uncomfortable when I saw one of them was celebrating a work anniversary.

Oh no, I thought, now it’s like he’s the butt of a joke.

So I decided to query my friends about the issue of memorializing or deleting social media accounts. The majority of those polled wish to have their Facebook profiles deleted, however there were some people who preferred to memorialize their timelines. Here are some of the things they said:

  • I have a few friends that have passed away. People still comment on their Facebook pages. It’s kind of nice to see and read comments people have left as a memorial! It’s kind of like a digital headstone!
  • Deleted please. Something to think about. I should probably let them know…
  • Well, since you asked, I want my Facebook account to be memorialized and beamed into outer space so that all of creation can know about this comment.
  • I deleted a friend yesterday who had passed away some time ago. It was weird, but I did enjoy seeing his smiling face & photos!
  • This is a good but creepy point. I guess I’d rather have my friend there than not but I can’t put words around it.

The issue of ghost accounts is not just one of pride; your personal identifying information will still be found in a variety of places online, including:

  • Real and junk email accounts alike
  • Photos on Facebook or Instagram
  • Resumes posted on LinkedIn
  • Music and documents stored in the cloud
  • Online banking records and accounts
  • Frequent flier accounts

Creating a digital will allows people to prevent that sort of thing from happening. A digital will appoints a digital executor who will “execute” your wishes and directives.

Choosing a digital executor should be done with caution. They should be capable, tech savvy, and above all, trustworthy: You will be entrusting him or her with all of your passwords. Your online executor is powerless without your passwords. But what if you change your passwords every month like I do?

PC Magazine recently published a guide to password managers that I found extremely useful. The range of different features that each product offers is a lot to take in, so I will spare you the time and say Last Pass looks the best on paper.

Some websites have taken it upon themselves to develop easy-to-use “legacy” programs of their own, but none more so than Facebook. A new feature, one that I hope to never use, allows any friend or family member to request that a deceased person’s timeline be turned into a memorial. Proof is required, usually in the form of an obituary. LinkedIn has a similar process for removing the profiles of deceased members.

Other, specialized websites serve as eternal obituaries, promising to keep your loved one’s memory alive forever – or at least until the sun consumes the earth in five billion years. Personally, I don’t want my online presence to continue after I die.  I want to be remembered as a good mom and nana, and a kind and generous person.

Have you created a digital will?

JJudith Heft, Principal, Judith Heft & Associates is a personal financial concierge with offices in Greenwich and Stamford. She can be contacted via email at or by phone 203-978-1858.

2 Responses to “Virtual Estates and Trust”

  1. I play “Words with Friends” via FB and they try to get me to start a game with a friend who died several years ago. I couldn’t see how to notify them to remove her name – guess her family would have to do that.
    …not nearly as important as the things you are talking about, but creepy nonetheless.

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