End of life planning in today’s connected world

As we spend more and more time online, it is becoming increasingly important to decide what happens to our social media and digital assets when we die.

At the same time, when someone dies, it is natural for their loved ones to turn to the platforms they used when they were alive to remember them. For many people, their loved one’s Facebook and Twitter accounts can act as focal points for remembrance. People can access photos and videos of their friend or relative, read the conversations they had with them and share memories with others on their Facebook wall.

Three years ago I launched DeadSocial, to help society deal with this ever-changing area. We provide a range of free tools, tutorials, printed materials and industry events to raise awareness of these important issues.

We can now plan for what we want to happen to our digital estate in a similar way to how we address our physical estate, for example by writing a social media will. We want to help people have these important conversations and ensure that their wishes at the end of their lives are respected.

According to a recent online survey carried out by DeadSocial, 62% of people consider being able to access a deceased friend or family member's social media accounts 'important' or 'very important'. Making plans for digital assets, such as MP3 files, eBooks and digital photos can also reduce stress and save money, as they can be transferred to the next of kin.

Addressing our digital legacy

As our relationship with technology has evolved, more and more people are documenting their end of life experiences. Stephen Sutton’s bucket list, and campaign for the teenage cancer trust, and Dr Kate Granger’s #hellomynameis campaign, are two examples of how technology can be used in a positive way to document the end of someone’s life.

Platform providers like Google, Facebook and Twitter are aware of the importance of dealing with our digital legacy. They have started to implement policies and ways in which we can address death, pass on our assets and grieve online. This will continue to expand and evolve as demand increase.

DeadSocial’s tutorials and resources range from how to download your Facebook data and pass it on to your next of kin to using iTunes playlists to decide which songs to play at a loved one’s funeral.

We recently produced the first offline guide to help people to sort out their digital legacy and prepare for death online. This process can help people who are healthy, those nearing the end of their lives and the recently bereaved. The guide is free for people to download and print.

Marie Curie’s information and support service can provide advice on planning for end of life, including managing digital property.