An Afterlife For Your Online Accounts

By  |  Tuesday, March 10, 2009 at 8:25 am

Legacy LockerA startup called Legacy Locker is launching today with a weighty mission: helping folks plan ahead–really ahead, one hopes–by recording login info for online accounts such as e-mail, social network, and photo sharing sites, and specifying who should be given access to them in event of the Legacy Locker user’s death. Co-founder Jeremy Toeman told me that the idea for the company was inspired in part by what happened when his own grandmother passed away at 94: She was an avid e-mail user, and her relatives wanted access to the family-related correspondence that remained in her inbox.

Legacy Locker plans to make its service available starting in April. Users specify two people who are responsible for informing the company of the user’s passing; once Legacy Locker has confirmed that person is no longer with us, it will disperse account information to the individuals specified by user. It’ll will cost $30 a year or $300 for, um, lifetime service, and Legacy Locker plans to work with financial and estate planners to market it to their customers.

It’ll be interesting to see if the service catches on–as Jason Kincaid points out at TechCrunch, using it indicates that you think Legacy Locker will be around after you aren’t. Which certainly isn’t a given, since startups tend to die a lot earlier and more unexpectedly than human beings do. And most people still don’t think of digital assets as, well, assets: In a world in which so many individuals can’t remember their passwords, period, how many will plan far enough ahead to think about taking steps to preserve their passwords after their own demise?

Still, if nothing else, Legacy Locker might get you thinking about the value of your online world. If my Twitter status remained mysteriously static after I went to my reward, it wouldn’t be a tragedy. But on both my mother’s and father’s side of the family, we’ve treasure the photos, letters, and other mementos that have survived for decades after the folks who first possessed them left us. With so much current family correspondence being in the form of e-mail rather than beautifully hand-written letters, and all new family photos being digital, it’s not a given that any of this stuff will be around decades from now.

Legacy Locker isn’t really about ensuring that memories are preserved for future generations; if anyone reads my e-mail or looks at my photos a century from now, I kind of doubt it’ll be because Gmail and Flickr are still around and accessible. But if you’re the type who has an up-to-date will and is otherwise willing to confront the uncomfortable fact that any of us could be gone tomorrow, you might be the sort who the company is trying to reach.

Any thoughts on your online accounts, activities, and possessions and what would happen to them if you weren’t around to take care of them?



5 Comments For This Post

  1. Michael Markman Says:

    I love the idea. But in today’s economy, what’s the life expectancy of a startup? How many customers will outlive Legacy Locker?

  2. JDoors Says:

    I would have dismissed this as targeting too small a customer base to succeed, but I recently saw an episode of the Jeopardy game show where one contestant’s occupation was listed as “Retired Computer Programmer.”

    Retired from programming? Man, I’m gettin’ old.

    So maybe Legacy Locker isn’t as tightly targeted as I thought. I wish ’em luck.

  3. Anne Louise Bannon Says:

    Actually, I was just thinking about putting together a similar service when a friend of mine passed away last month – and he was not even 40 yet. We had a heck of a time notifying his wide range of friends and a couple got missed simply because we had no contact info for them.

    With more and more single folk out there, a service like this would be a godsend for friends and family alike.

    As for losing Twitter – one of the ways we knew there was a problem is that my friend had suddenly stopped tweeting.

  4. GoEverywhere Team Says:

    This is an interesting concept. There are so many usernames, email clients, social networking sites – there’s no way to keep track of everything your parents or significant others are up to!

    That’s what is great about GoEverywhere though. A user can store their important documents, files, and all of their username/passwords under one login ID on their online personal webtop. This way it’s accessible from anywhere. This may be a much more inexpensive option than Legacy Locker.

  5. Linni Rita Gad Says:

    This is really interesting and necessary to discuss. I am currently doing some research for an article about “what to do with with online information and profiles” after life. I would very much like to talk to anyone who like Anne Louise Bannon has experiences (sadly) with friends and family passing away and problems with getting access to their data. Or someone who created a digital will.
    If anyone is interested in sharing their story and make Danish newspaper readers consider these issues, please write me.

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