"Be open to your dreams, people. Embrace that distant shore. Because our mortal journey is over all too soon." So mused radio announcer Chris Stevens, in a 1992 episode of Northern Exposure. And when that journey is over, you are probably going to want your online friends, who may live all over the world, to know why your postings have suddenly stopped.
1. Identify the representative who will handle your affairs after your death. This could be a spouse, a son, a mother, an attorney, or even a neighbor.
2. Let your representative know that you are active online and that you want him to notify your online friends after you pass away.
3. Make a list of people with whom you correspond online. Go through your e-mail address book and think about who you would like to have notified after you pass on and how. Leave specific instructions for your representative, such as:
* How to log into your e-mail account
* Send a specific message to certain people
* Send a general message to everyone in the address book
* Set up an automatic reply to anyone who writes to your e-mail address
* Delete the account after a specified period of time has passed
4. Identify now any online communities of which you are an active member. Are you a regular contributor? Surely other users will appreciate being notified after your death. Maybe you are a read-only member. Nonetheless, you may still want to have the group notified after your death if you feel the group has helped you and you want to express your appreciation.
5. Write down full instructions as to how to access your communities. List the name of the group or service sponsoring the online community, the URL or website address or, if the group is accessed by posting an email, give the appropriate email address.
6. Ascertain how your representative will be able to log in to the community. Can he simply email an administrator? Will he have to create his own account and log on in order to send a message? Work this out now so that you can give full instructions which you know are going to work later, when your representative tries to notify the group.
Decide what you want your representative to tell the group. Perhaps you simply want your representative to make a simple statement indicating the date and place of your death. Or perhaps you want to prepare a paragraph now which can be uploaded to the group later. This may be particularly useful if you are currently planning for your death due to a terminal illness. Maybe you prefer to instruct your representative to simply upload your newspaper obituary. There are many ways to approach it. The point is to go ahead and plan now, before it becomes too late.
* Be sure to specify an alternate representative in case, for example, you chose your spouse and then your spouse predeceases you.
* If you decide you need to give your own log-on information, then perhaps you could notify your representative that he should look in your safety deposit box after your death for full instructions.
* Online notification is only one small part of the death and disability planning which you should take care of sooner than later. In most cases, it is probably a good idea to consult an attorney. Just don't forget about notifications to your online friends!
* Your will is not a good place to specify sensitive information such as log-on instructions and passwords, as wills become part of the public record. You want your log-on information to remain private, for use only by your trusted representative.