Early in your life, you might have worried about who was going to get your toys or your CDs when you died (or tapes or—gasp!—records, if you are truly ancient). Then, as you grew up and earned a bit of money, you might have actually made a will to tell people what to do with all your shit when you shuffled off this mortal coil. Well, now it turns out that, thanks to technology, there's a whole new way for you to inconvenience your relatives from beyond the grave: your digital estate.
That's right, now that so much of what people "own"—photos, correspondence, financial records, etc. is online and password protected, it's becoming an area that requires legal action to get into once someone dies. For instance, Karen Williams lost her 22-year-old son in a motorcycle accident and ended up having to sue Facebook to gain access to his account and keep it active. Facebook's current policy says that once a death is reported via an online form, the deceased's account is put in a "memorialized state." Facebook will give the estate of the deceased a download of the account data, but only "if prior consent is obtained from or decreed by the deceased or mandated by law." They'll also remove the page altogether if a close relative asks them to.
Oklahoma has passed a law that says friends and relatives can take control of a dead person's social media accounts—including Facebook, Twitter, and email—which are considered "digital assets." Nebraska is currently working on a similar law, and Oregon looks like it will be next. Of course, all of this legal mumbo jumbo is moot if someone knows your passwords and can get into your accounts. (Though that means they can access your accounts while you're still alive too, which brings its own dangers.)
Either way, the idea that you have a digital estate serves as a powerful reminder that if you were to suddenly disappear from this world, your mother might be able to see all of your drunken Facebook photos that you've worked so hard to block from her innocent eyes. Your father could have access to your sexts. Your child could someday read those dirty emails you sent to your college boyfriend. *Shudder*
It's enough to make you want to delete your entire social media history right this second—but hahaha, you can't, because Google and Facebook and Twitter have it locked in their secret vaults in the desert somewhere and will probably figure out a way to charge your family to gain access to all of your shameful secrets when you're dead. Or worse, there will be an app called iDie of Embarrassment that unearths all of the things you really didn't want people to see and sends them to everyone instantly upon your death, which your phone will sense because it will constantly measure your heart rate.
So, before that comes to pass, now might be a good time to go in and cull your computer and all of your accounts of any evidence of your true self that you don't want your next of kin to see in the event of your sudden demise. While you're at it, why not put together a few of your favorite profile pics in a new Facebook album called "Use These at My Funeral." That way you can ensure you look your very best during the memorial powerpoint presentation that your cousin hastily puts together.
Image via Tomislav Pinter/Shutterstock.