Mashable compiled a great list of resources for handling your online life after your death earlier this month. October is the month for that, I suppose, and there will undoubtedly be more posts like this all over the web as All Hallows Eve draws near.
While I fully appreciate the need for such services, the problem with this websites is that you're really giving a company you know very little about an enormous amount of information about yourself and your finances (in most cases paying them to store it, actually), without really knowing who has access to that information, or having any recourse if your final wishes are not carried out.
A good friend of mine with an extensive online presence died last month. He did have a good life-after-death plan for his online accounts, which included giving control of his home computer to a very good (trusted) friend who just happens to be an IT genius. This plan worked very well for him, because his friend was able to use hacking software to figure out his passwords that were not cached, and knew ho to go through his web history and computer directory to finalize all of his affairs in a responsible manner.
Most of us don't have a friend like that. Many of us ARE the most computer literate person in our lives, and if you're anything like me, you might not occasionally have trouble retrieving your own passwords, much less those of someone else. So, what to do?
It's pretty simple, actually, but it will take a little bit of planning. When you're writing out your will, and gathering all of your important papers in one place (you HAVE done that, haven't you? I thought so), be sure to also compile a list of your online accounts and passwords, and store them with your important papers. This can be done on a disc, or thumb drive. Remember, this will need to be updated frequently. If you're concerned you won't remember to update your file regularly, as you update your passwords, simply include the access information to wherever you DO store your passwords with those important papers. You may also need to include written instructions for whichever family member or attorney will be handling your final affairs.
Jennifer Pointer (e-mail) is in Tulsa, OK. She promotes a simple, a low-tech approach to effective online profile management, search engine optimization and social networking.