BeforeYourNext Birthday-DeniseFisher’s Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Story’

What Happens To Your Online Accounts When You Die?

Posted by denisefisher on May 14, 2009

Fortune Cookie of Impending Death Here are some thought-provoking questions that may elicit a sense of uncertainty, if not panic:

  • Do you know how many online accounts you have?
  • Do you have a list of them anywhere?
  • Is that list written or printed out (not just on your computer)?
  • What about passwords to your accounts?
  • Have you informed anyone about your account info, and do they know where/how to find and access it?
  • Where are your digital photos and important electronic documents kept?
  • Where are your purchased music files and other purchased downloads stored?
  • Are your media files and other documents accessible to someone you’d want to have them?
  • What about your private files or accounts – are there any you’d want destroyed or closed without being viewed?
  • Do you have any arrangements made for services or subscriptions that are automatically renewed and charged to your credit card or other financial accounts?

NPR’s program, All Things Considered, did a story on 11 May 2009 about this very topic. Click on this link to read about, or listen to, Your Digital Life After Death.

Over the past few years, several businesses have emerged with online sites and subscription services to deal with the related issues of legal matters, privacy concerns, electronic bequeaths, and designated access, as well as legacy wishes and remembrances.

Listed below is an extensive selection of online resources that might help you in planning the digital details of your eventual demise – they include all of the services I could identify as of the date of this blog posting. I have visited each of the sites to find out what they offer, how their system works, and the rates they are currently charging for their services. The summary descriptions are provided here:

AssetLock.net – This site provides a digital version of traditional estate planning. A template is provided to help remind you of what to include. You can store documents, instructions, and include a listing of accounts and passwords that will be accessible to designated individuals upon your death. You decide who can access which of your entries. There are 3 levels of services and pricing: 20-100-unlimited entries; 20MB-1GB-5GB storage; annual fee of $10-$30-$80.

VitalLock.com – This site describes itself as being in the “Alpha” stage of development and is not yet active.

LegacyLocker.com – A seemingly well-developed service and clearly, the most widely promoted system of its type, this site requires users to designate beneficiaries for their information as well as verifiers of their death. One of its defining criteria is the human oversight element, which requires that a human being provide the company with a death certificate before it will release information or access to the designated beneficiaries. There are 2 levels of services and 3 levels of pricing: the free account includes 3 assets, 1 beneficiary, and 1 legacy letter; the premium service includes unlimited assets, beneficiaries, and letters, and can be paid by a $30 annual subscription or a one-time fee of $300.

SlightlyMorbid.com – This site’s purpose is to send messages or notifications to your online friends in grave situations (not just the situation of your death). Plans are priced as one-time fees, which is described as being similar to the way you would pay for someone to prepare a will. It covers situations of death, natural disaster, accident, serious illness, or whatever you specify. You designate one trusted friend (or up to 5 or 10, for premium plans) and that friend will send out a message to 10 (or 30 or 50, for premium plans) of your online contacts to notify them of your condition, based upon messages you have written in advance. Your trusted friend cannot view or change the messages – they can only activate their delivery. Changes and updates are free for 3 years; after that, changes can be made with a small update fee. The one-time set-up fees are $10-$20-$50.

GreatGoodbye.com – This site’s tagline is “e-mail from the grave.” Its service allows a trusted person with activation codes to send out your final e-mail message with a photo attachment upon your death. When the trusted person activates the process of delivering of your message, a notification is sent to your e-mail address and you are given 21 days in which to cancel the ultimate delivery of your message(s).  I suppose this is in case your trusted person makes a mistake, becomes no longer trustworthy, or you make a miraculous unexpected recovery. Premium packages can include audio or video attachments. There are 4 levels of services and each service has the option of an annual or one-time fee: 1-3-10-500 e-mails; yearly fees of $10-$20-$36-$50; one-time fees of $39-$87-$150-$219.

MyLastEmail.com – This site’s service is basically an online memorial page that you set up in advance, and is made accessible upon your death. The free service includes the posting of 1 document, 1 image, 1 video, and notification of 2 recipients. Premium packages are mentioned on the website, but apparently are not yet available.

YourPersonalScribe.com – This service is unique in its personalization of creating your life story. Sharon Scribe (yeah, that’s who provides this service) writes your personal obituary in advance, with your help. She uses a questionnaire followed by a personal interview with you, as well as interviews with close family members, friends, and colleagues, to prepare your life story. I don’t know what will happen when Sharon Scribe dies, but she also writes wedding toasts, poetry, and tributes for other special occasions in one’s life. The base rate for this service is $300, but has some flexibility for lower income clients.

Deathswitch.com – This site’s model has a very futuristic sci-fi feel to it (even the audio you hear when the page opens or when you roll over a link is very space-age sounding). They call it information insurance. I’d call it a life-watch service. It’s very different from others in that it does not require you to designate a trusted person with the responsibility for initiating the services upon your death. The website summarizes it nicely as “an automated system that prompts you for your password on a regular schedule [at intervals designated by you] to make sure you are still alive.” If you do not respond to multiple follow-up prompts, pre-scripted messages are automatically e-mailed to your named recipients. The company encourages you to test out the service by having the death messages sent to yourself. If for some reason you did not reply (but are still alive) you will get a preliminary message allowing you to click a link that says “Wait I’m still alive!” You can set up a free account that will send your message to 1 recipient with no attachments. The premium account sends up to 30 different messages to up to 10 recipients each (300 recipients total). I could not find the rate information for premium accounts on the site, but an Associated Press article about this service mentioned that it was $20/year.

I scanned through my hand-written list of online accounts (I have 7 pages worth) and found these representative accounts among my listings:

e-mail accounts AOL, Yahoo, G-mail
social networks Facebook, Twitter, Linked In
financial accounts credit union, bank, mortgage company, Visa, home equity line of credit
investments/retirement Thrift Savings Plan, brokerage accounts, retirement account
travel-related sites frequent flier miles, Travelocity account
merchandise accounts Amazon, PayPal, ebay, iStockPhoto, iTunes
image/video/communications Flikr, YouTube, Skype, Oovoo
recurring/renewable payment accounts Verizon DSL service, AOL internet service provider, Corporate Housing ad, GoDaddy domains, Franklin County property tax

My listing will probably remind you of some of your accounts that need to be considered in your planning arrangements. If you prepare and store documents or photos online (also referred to as “the cloud”) you need to take these files into account too. It’s not much of a virtual leap to go from the cloud down to earth and onto your computer and hard drives. You’ve got a lot of information on your computer to consider in your planning too.

These aren’t just issues to consider in anticipation of your death. With so much information being stored electronically, you’ve got a lot of digital eggs being kept in various compartments, but all in one basket.

Have you ever had your computer crash or had your computer lost, stolen, damaged, or destroyed? I have. And so have lots of others. Find someone and ask them about it – they’ll tell you what it was like. When my computer was stolen, the most devastating loss was my collection of family digital photos. The thief could’ve had the computer. I just wanted the files. I had some of the files printed or stored elsewhere, but most of them weren’t backed up, copied to others, or printed out as photos. They were gone forever.

Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by thinking you’re covered because you back up your files onto an external drive or some other media. If someone breaks into your home and steals your computer, and the hard drive or other media is stored nearby, they’re going to take them all. Same thing for a natural disaster. A fire, flood, electrical- or wind-storm comes along and all your electronic equipment and storage media is likely to suffer the same fate. Ask the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

You’ve got options for saving your data and planning for access and/or deletion of your online accounts, but you have to put the plans in place now. You may not have the advance notice of your impending death in which to take care of these preparations. And even if you do, will you want to spend the remaining months of your life getting your accounts and online documents in order? Will you even have the energy or ability? Think about it, make a plan, and take some preliminary action to get things started. It’s better than doing nothing.

Here’s a closing thought: You can put together your own service plan – a simple, low-tech version of the packages mentioned above. But you actually have to do it. If paying someone else will get you to take action, it would be worth doing that. Even if you start out with a free online plan or put together a paid premium plan for one year, you’ll have organized your information and considered the details of your arrangements, and would be able to cancel your service after a year, by switching to your own at-home version. Enlist another family member to take on this task with you. They need to do it too, and may not have thought about it or started it either. Use the power of partnership and accountability to get your affairs in order.

(Editorial note: for any of you who may be wondering about my previously mentioned grand finale of wardrobe organization, I am in the process of completing and editing it. It’s very long and detailed, even more than my usual posts. So it may be published in a format other than a blog post. Updates will follow.)

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This I Believe – Don’t Wait Too Late To Say It

Posted by denisefisher on February 18, 2009

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Listeners of NPR (National Public Radio) will be familiar with the title of this post. But for the uninitiated, let me take a moment to describe this weekly series of short personal essays that are read by their authors. The following paragraphs are from the This I Believe website:

What is This I Believe?
This I Believe is an international project engaging people in writing, sharing, and discussing the core values that guide their daily lives. These short statements of belief, written by people from all walks of life, are archived here and featured on public radio in the United States, as well as in regular broadcasts on NPR. The project is based on the popular 1950s radio series of the same name hosted by Edward R. Murrow.

The History of This I Believe
At the dawn of the Cold War and the height of McCarthyism, Americans from all walks of life bravely spoke their beliefs on the original This I Believe.   Now, a new documentary tells the fascinating history of the series hosted by Edward R. Murrow.
Listen to the program including essays by Harry Truman, Margaret Mead, William O. Douglas, Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein and other prominent figures of the day.

I am writing a post about this now because the broadcasting of the program is scheduled to end in April 2009. For those who would like to write their own essay about what they believe and submit it for possible broadcast, the deadline is looming. For those who aren’t interested in having their story read on the air, this might serve as a call for action with a sense of urgency.

The guidelines for the broadcast version suggest a personal essay of about 350 – 500 words, which will last for about three minutes when read aloud in your natural speaking voice. (The length of this post is about 800 words.) To begin writing your essay, it is suggested that you first consider how it will be framed in a concrete belief or conviction. Then, you should tell a compelling story about how you came to hold that belief, or a time in which that belief was challenged, or how that belief shapes your daily activities. Identifying a single belief is usually more poignant than composing a list of all your beliefs. Though creating a list might be a good brainstorming activity to get you started, and your list might be something you want to keep as a separate document. Follow this link to submit your finished essay: http://thisibelieve.org/agree.html. Other pages on the site will answer frequently asked questions and give you samples to read or listen to.

This is a great task to undertake for your own thoughtful self-reflection. It can be something for you to use as a guide or mantra for how you live your life. Your personal values, put into writing, can be something you can share with those who are dear to you. Your statement, your story, can be something you leave to posterity. Add a photo of yourself to commemorate the times in which you lived, and you will have an instant keepsake. You could even have your story, with your photo framed to give as a gift to someone important in your life who would appreciate it more than any trendy novelty that you could purchase from a store.

Take the time to express your heartfelt story that tells about your personal beliefs and why they matter to you. You could even make it a family activity for a quiet Sunday afternoon. After each person writes their essay, they could have an audio-video recording made of them reading their essay, and you would end up with an amazing family time capsule. This seems like something that would mean a great deal when given as a special gift to either grandparents or adult children.

April is only a short time away. Designate a time now to make this a planned activity for yourself and for someone important in your life. It could even be done simultaneously at distant locations. The resulting document (and whatever audio or visual enhancements you add to it) will be treasured by those you love. And the activity itself will help you to consider and then articulate your personal purpose in life.

This is a project that I am going to schedule for this upcoming Sunday, 22 February 2009 – the afternoon before the Academy Awards. Since I don’t have an award nomination this year, and won’t be in need of an acceptance speech, this exercise will be a suitable alternative.

What about you? Could you put into writing what it is that you believe? Will you do it? Don’t miss the deadline. Everyone has one.

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5 Ways “This American Life” Can Work For You – Act 3 – Motivation For Writing

Posted by denisefisher on February 2, 2009

clip_image002 It can be tough to shift gears, settle your mind, and sustain the focus needed for a writing project of any kind. This applies to more people than just journalists, authors, blog writers, and students. If you want to create a plan for your business, career, or personal goals, you’ll need to put something in writing. If you want to document family history or maintain a journal of your life story, you’ll need to quiet your mind and devote a chunk of uninterrupted time to this task. And you can’t just do it once. It takes repeated writing sessions to articulate ideas and bring a story to completion.

So many things around us stimulate the mind to race from one activity or attention-grabbing distraction to another. And the quiet, focused mindset that’s needed to write doesn’t come easily.

Enter the pre-writing exercise of listening to an episode of This American Life (TAL). This program is available through multiple media sources:

1. Your local public radio station (broadcast dates and time vary, so you’ll have to consult local programming guides)
2. Free downloaded podcasts (through iTunes or the TAL website)
3. Streaming audio you can listen to online while you’re connected to the internet
4. Purchased podcasts from the archives collection on the website
5. CDs of selected stories, available for purchase from the website’s store

While you listen to the show, through whatever means, you will find your mind calming and relaxing to the soothing voice of Ira Glass. Do not dilute this experience by trying to multi-task with other quick-paced activities. Something rhythmic, like knitting or shoe-polishing, would be ok, but stay away from large-muscle movements for these purposes.

You will find yourself engrossed in the stories you are listening to, yet, at the same time, your mind will start to engage in its own creative process. A similar thing happens when an amateur painter watches an admired artist at work on a canvas, or a casual musician sees a great performance with an instrument he plays himself. At some point, the observer experiences a compelling urge to become a creator, performer, or story teller.

You might not be able to restrain your urge to write until the end of the program, so have your writing tablet and implements, or your keyboard, within reach, even if it’s just to make notes. Then ride that wave of momentum and write for as long as you are able. You will feel such a sense of satisfaction with what you’ve done, and you’ll have a new option available to use when you’re struck with writer’s block or just a hectic lifestyle of distractions.

Here are some episodes that you may want to start with for this tip (I’ve included several suggestions, since you’ll need them for your many writing sessions):

#14 Accidental Documentaries

#314 It’s Never Over

#261 The Sanctity of Marriage

#167 Memo to the People of the Future

#174 Birthdays, Anniversaries, and Milestones

#114 Last Words

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