Mar 19, 2010

Web Wills

A new service called My Webwill launched a new web based service last December. The Swedish Internet site offers to manage email and social networking accounts after death. My Webwill is testing in Sweden and the United States and plans to go live in Britain and Germany this year and more countries in later.

Users can set up a digital will with directions on what should happen to their email and social network accounts after they die. Currently, a Facebook profile, for example, can remain active long after its creator has passed away.

Some services, such as Legacy Locker Inc., Deathswitch, and Slightly Morbid, will send posthumous emails to friends and family.  My Webwill will enter accounts and manage them according to a person's last wishes.

The basic service is free and includes the deactivation of 10 Internet accounts and the option to send up to five prepared e-mails written by you. A premium service paid service offers more detailed management of social networking profiles as well as unlimited posthumous e-mails and account deactivations. It offers customers a range of services, including posting prepared messages, changing profile pictures or updating status bars. Users can also pre-write emails that will be passed on to designated receivers such as friends or family.

In Sweden and Germany, My Webwill is automatically notified of a death by national authorities. In other countries clients will need to choose one or two  people who notify My Webwill about the death and send a death certificate for the deceased.

Currently families have much difficulty shutting down sites and emails. For instance, Facebook's current policy is to move a deceased person's profile into a "Memorial State," removing contact information, status updates and group memberships once a death has been confirmed. The profile itself usually remains and confirmed friends can still find them through the search tool and write on the person's wall. This whole business may sound morbid, but it makes sense as we spend more and more time online.