What happens to our digital persona after we die? When my friend Max passed away, his hotmail account remained active for some time. I sent messages to that address and liked to think of these thoughts disappearing into tiny particles, bits and bytes if you will. I was totally aware that Max would not read the messages, that at best a relative might know his password.
Collectively we generate more public information today than all the information produced by human beings throughout history. Cisco says that by 2016 or ’17 total global annual IP traffic will cross the zettabyte threshold, and that’s only a portion of all the data that is created. CenturyLink projects that 1.8 zettabytes of data will be created this year alone. By 2015 the projection is 7.9 zettabytes per year. That’s the equivalent of 18 million times the digital assets stored by the Library of Congress today.
Big data initiatives are looking at a point in the near future where they can pluck, from all those bits and bytes, every piece of information associated with any one person.
So what does that mean in context of our final digital update? Adam Ostrow points to a future where our life’s digital footprint might be captured and reinterpreted into a kind of afterlife presence, an avatar if you will, that has the potential to live on nearly forever. Is this where we want to go as a society? Some might feel reassured to think so. Watch the video and decide for yourself.
The title and inspiration for this posting come from an AARP Bulletin written by Carole Fleck. One of her observations is that, “…. Life is complicated, but death, it turns out, is complicated, too.”
The story follows Susan Crim. It took Susan nearly two years to finally wrap up affairs in the wake of her mother’s death. Then, her father died and much of the work started over again. I’ve heard this story more than a few times from friends. Becoming the executor can be stressful, even if an estate is small.
This author won’t pretend to be an expert on estate planning, financial instruments, becoming an executor and the like. Instead, a list of resources appears below for anyone interested in the subject. What I offer the reader is a bulleted list of the things you can do to make life miserable for those you leave behind. Get to it:
- Open many bank accounts, some of them in neighboring or distant states, one overseas, and then simply leave a list of bank names – Bank of America, Endicott Savings and Loan, Bolivian Credit Union, Texas United, and so on … the kids will figure it out.
- Get in the stock market using an online trading system like E-trade. Never write down any passwords because for sure, as soon as you do, someone will come along and clean you out. Memorize the stocks you purchase or better yet, don’t.
- Lend and borrow money with friends and relatives but don’t ever record the transactions or talk about them with other family members. It’s OK to whine at family meals but nothing specific.
- Get a safe deposit box and tape the frigging key to the bottom of the junk drawer in your kitchen for safekeeping.
- Keep five credit cards open at all times, moving money from one to the next. Have your bills come online, but again, never write down passwords to accounts, including your Hotmail account.
- Tell your sons you want to be cremated. Tell your daughters about a burial plot you’ve considered that overlooks Johnson’s creek.
- Get a reverse mortgage on the family home but don’t talk about it with family. They won’t understand borrowing against a family treasure.
- Keep information for all checking and savings accounts you ever had, open ones and closed, in a big cardboard box in the garage. You never know when the IRS might ask about accounts you held back in the ‘50s.
- At the age of 85, put a sizable portion of your available cash into long-term maturity bonds so you can get a better rate.
Don’t like my list? OK then, make your own or use ideas provided by The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. They suggest a financial inventory. Here are suggest items for that list:
- List financial assets and loans with all account numbers. List the companies by name along with contact information
- Gather all your important documents and paperwork and let responsible parties know where all the information is. Fireproof safes or safety deposit boxes are potential candidates.
- List all the key people that will need to be contacted
And here are links on similar subjects from the same web site:
Go here to download a guidebook to implementing an end-of-life plan.
Or, download these financial worksheets:
Estate planner should check out Caring.com.
Buddhist roshi Joan Halifax has worked with the dying for over 40 years, in hospice and on death row. Working with the terminally ill is one of the forms of engaged Buddhism. Halifax is the director of the Project on Being With Dying and runs the Upaya Zen Center in New Mexico. Continue reading
Peter Saul: Let’s talk about dying.
“We don’t really save lives, we push off death,” says Peter Saul. Lives saved through preventive measures, in their 40s and 50s, inevitably return to their physicians in old age. Saul reports that 6 of 10 will die at a ripe old age of dwindling capacity. Simple frailty is becoming the most predictable cause of death. Continue reading