For many people, estate planning is an uncomfortable and often neglected process.
A survey published last year revealed that an amazing 71% of adults under the age of 34 don’t have wills, and 41% of those considered Baby Boomers — aged 55-64 — don’t either.
“The death of a loved one can wreak emotional havoc on a family,” the survey, conducted by Rocket Lawyer, stated, “but when there’s no Last Will, it can create a crisis that even time may not heal.”
The survey also took a look at a topic that rarely gets discussed during estate planning: what to do with all those online photos, electronic statements and digital devices.
In 2011, the average value of a person’s digital assets was believed to be about $55,000. And for those who have a will, most don’t include a digital plan for ensuring such assets are preserved or distributed to their next of kin.
But some afterlife start-up companies may not only be changing the way people protect their digital assets after they’re gone, but also how people extend their social media presence — a sort of virtual eternity if you will.
Three companies in particular have collaborated with time capsule and end of life experts to begin beta testing and full product rollout of ways to let loved ones communicate with family and friends from beyond the grave.
Eran Alfonta, founder & CEO of an Israel-based company called If I Die, came up with the idea of a digital afterlife Facebook application after friends of his had a near-death experience while vacationing in Italy.
“The traumatic experience left them with the realization that death could catch them anywhere, anytime,” the company stated in a website press release, “and that there should be a service that enables leaving a message for their kids and loved ones.”
The free tool lets Facebook users install the app and leave a video or text-formatted message, or upload a ready-made video, as a final farewell message to loved ones only to be published after their death.
According to the company, the message could include your life story, a favorite joke, a long kept secret or even a score you want to settle with an adversary.
“After leaving a message, you then need to choose trustees which are in charge of reporting your passing away, triggering your final message to be posted for all to see,” a company representative said. “These trustees should be close friends and family members you trust, picked from your Facebook friends’ list. You may choose as many trustees as you wish, but it takes a minimum of three trustees to confirm your death.”
The company says the highest security measures have been implemented to ensure messages intended for an after-death audience are not released prematurely.
“As an act of precaution, the moment a death report is received, the user that left the message is immediately informed and a time buffer is activated, to ensure this was not a mistake,” the company added.
Another free service comes from UK-based DeadSocial, which lets users send scheduled messages directly from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.
“These are only distributed across our social networks after we die,” the company’s website said. “This allows us all to say our final goodbyes on our own terms and for us to extend our digital legacy using the social web.”
DeadSocial’s scheduled messages can include a final farewell or a series of scheduled messages that include not only text, but audio and video messages as well.
“The afterlife is not a new idea, it’s been around for quite a long time with all the different versions of heaven and hell, “said David Bedwood, a partner at the UK-based ad agency Lean Mean Fighting Machine which developed a new afterlife Tweeting project called _LivesOn, in a recent CNN news story. “To me this isn’t any stranger than any one of those. In fact, it might be less strange.”
_LivesOn, which is slated to begin in March, is a sort of Twitter bot that analyzes content from your feed and trains itself to replicate your likes, tastes, and syntax.
Once you set up an executor to your _LivesOn “Will”, that person can decide to keep your Twitter count live after your death.
What say you?
Are these services a good way to help people deal with death on their own terms, and help loved ones left behind through the grieving process? Or are they trivializing the death process and the afterlife? Leave your thoughts below.
WATCH MORE FROM DEADSOCI.AL AND IFIDIE:
Did you find this content interesting? If so, please consider a small PayPal donation.