Thinking about your digital death

There’s the old joke of asking your best friend to clear your browser history when you die, but there are some serious things you should consider for what happens after you’ve logged off of this world for the final time. If you follow me you may recall from one week ago today I discovered that one of my renters was dead. The neighbor was worried as there was a stack of rotting meat shipment sitting on her front porch and the car was still in the driveway. A wellness check was called in, police let in, and yeah.

What followed was a week of me, friends, and the police attempting to find anything out about the next of kin, her old co-workers making up a story about her death because they were evidently afraid that it reflected badly on them if it were a suicide, finding that all these people search places give a crap ton of useless and false information, and generally finding out after finally managing to connect with everyone that there was/is no plan.

Add to that, I’m as a third party hip deep in drama that I have zero interest in.

Someone needs your accounts

Someone needs your passwords to social media accounts. Social media is the fastest way to contact relatives, loved ones, and just get people on board at the same time to do something and help your loved ones out.

Here’s the problem these days though – everything has a second factor authentication and that’s going to require diving pretty deep to get to… it’s not as simple as texting your digital executor “my password on Facebook is ‘Drawssap!'” – they’re going to get a challenge which will go to you, your phone, your email, or something.

Facebook has Legacy contacts which can post on your timeline and help, but that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be able to get that message in front of people that you’re dead. Twitter doesn’t appear to have any methods to post on your behalf.

So think about how is this going to work?

How are your loved ones going to get around the two factor authentication? How do you give them access while still not allowing hacking groups to give them access?

Your digital death needs to be written out in analog

So, the problem with coming up with a backdoor into your life is it’s only as good as the security on the other end. Do you really trust your parents with the keys to potentially every account you own? Do you trust that information living on the internet?

While post-it notes on the bottom of your keyboard may seem like a reasonable response to this, what happens if you die and your house/apartment catches on fire? What happens if a burglar comes in and gets this info? Really things you need to consider.

At my work there’s an envelope containing passwords I hand wrote out and one-time-use authentication numbers. That envelope has a twin that the owner of the company has at his house.

With both of those in place I fully expect they’ve lost them so there’s another at my house. If they can read my handwriting they should be good. I mean, I’m paranoid you can write it up in Microsoft Word or Google Docs and print it… I just suspect any printer cache and any saved document is accessible and that everything I type is being seen by an unknown hacker.

I fully realize that if I believe that then I should believe a keylogger is getting my passwords as well but let me have my illusion of security.

May be overkill sounding, but make a will

It doesn’t have to be airtight, but just a list of what you want to happen. You don’t need a lawyer to tell your family that you wish to be cremated and shot out of a T-Shirt cannon at a basketball game into an unsuspecting audience. You don’t need a dramatic reading to say “give this stuff to these people unless anyone objects.”

Not just having a little note saying “get me the $200 cremation” can save your loved ones $8000 on burial expenses. They’re torn up over what’s happening, not thinking straight, and trying to navigate getting death certificates, notifying family, etc.

A little note that can be followed

If you don’t have someone close, get the person who’s most likely to find your dead body

This may be unique to my last week, but I’ve spent the last week digging through someone’s life to just try and find out who meant something to them. It’s not been fun. My relationship was supposed to be landlord/tenant you got a problem with the house you let me know, end of involvement other than the occasional running into them in the real world.

It took days before we got the first lead. Neighbor managed to remember the name of someone and down the rabbit hole we went. Some Facebook stalking, an ex skip tracer, managed to find someone a day or two before authorities.

Would have been useful had her phone had an emergency contact in it… because you can only make emergency calls.


  • Have one person who can use your account(s)
  • Have a contact list of people to be notified and how
  • Make a will, even if it’s one saying “let them fight for my baubles”
  • Have some way people who discover your body can proceed
  • Don’t mull over this, just do it
  • Don’t make your loved ones solve a mystery, they’re tired and sad
  • Have a friend
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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts

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