Photos, videos, contacts, banking information and other information are often kept online in this day and age, but what happens to all of this when you pass away?
This may be a morbid question, but new online sites claim to have a solution to this problem with their new services.
Facebook, Twitter and other site’s terms of service only allow one person to access each account. When the site is notified that a person has died they do not delete the account, but rather leave an in-memoriam message. Some feel that being able to have access through inheriting passwords will be a simpler way of deleting accounts and obtaining photos and other online data.
Sites like legacylocker.com, keepyousafe.com and deathswitch.com offer an online safety deposit box for digital assets. They say they are primarily targeted at parents with children and a will, as well as estate planners.
Legacy Locker, launched on Apr. 7, allows you to select various online assets (PC logins, Web domains, accounts with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, eBay, Flickr, iTunes, Quicken and so on) and enter the Web name and passwords. You then designate a “beneficiary“ for each.
You select at least two “verifiers,“ the family members, attorneys or trusted friends who will let Legacy Locker know you‘ve passed away. When that happens, two of the verifiers must confirm that the account holder is indeed deceased, and present a copy of the person‘s death certificate. After the confirmation process, Legacy Locker will notify any beneficiaries of assets left to them. The beneficiaries must also confirm their identities.
The company offers a free version of the service that lets you choose three digital assets, one beneficiary and one letter. A Legacy Letter is a farewell message to anyone you want. There is no limit to what you can say and you can edit your message. For an unlimited number of assets, beneficiaries and letters, you must pay $30 a year or $300 for lifetime membership. Legacy Locker founder Jeremy Toeman told USA Today that there will not be ads on the site.
KeepYouSafe’s version of the online safety deposit box is $49.95 per year. It allows you to store up to 5 gigabytes of important files and information (like a copy of your home inventory or homeowners policy), medical records and more. Users cannot sign up for KeepYouSafe until May when they will be coming out with a “new and improved“ version of site.
DeathSwitch is an automated system that prompts you for your password on a schedule you set up to make sure you are still alive. When you do not enter your password for some period of time, the system prompts you again several times. If you do not reply, the computer deduces you are dead or critically disabled, and pre-scripted messages are automatically e-mailed to those you choose.
The subscription is free for one message to one recipient. For $19.95 you can create 30 messages, with up to 10 recipients for each message, and file attachments. Information such as passwords to accounts, secrets, funeral instructions, final wishes and financial advice/bank accounts are some of the many options to include in your messages.
“In the age we live in accounts have real value monetarily and in terms of the time and energy put into them,” said David Speiser of Stage Two Consulting, a marketing and media relations firm specializing in consumer technology and Legacy Locker. “At Legacy Locker we‘re working with state planners and attorneys to make Legacy Locker a part of their process; another resource for that industry.“
Experts are hesitant to say the concept will be successful.
“I think it really depends on the timing,“ said Greg Sterling, founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence, a consulting and research firm that tracks the impact of the Internet on offline consumer purchase behavior and its disruption of traditional media. “There is still resistance to sites like this because the culture of the Internet is free. Maybe in the future, when everything is electronic, consumers will be more willing to pay subscriptions.“
Tom Adams, president of Adams Media Research, a source of market data and financial analysis, shares a similar opinion.
“The concept seems useful, but since people won‘t be using this on a day-to-day basis, as a business it has its limits,“ Adams said. “This seems like something that life insurance would simply take on.“
A concern of some is what will happen to customers‘ information if these sites fail.
“We have plans in place if something happens,“ Speiser said. “We will announce our plans in the next month or two to make sure people‘s information is secure and will still be passed on to beneficiaries.“
DeathSwitch and KeepYouSafe representatives could not be reached for comment.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached email@example.com.