The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Business & Technology

September 18, 2013

Your Facebook password belongs in your will

(Continued)

Risk No. 3: Losing Control of Your Personal Legacy

Steve found out about his mother's Facebook account several weeks after her death. He rarely uses social media, and he was surprised to learn his mother did. He waited several weeks before searching for her page, because he was fearful of what he might learn. For decades their relationship had been strained. When he was a child, she had left their family and moved several states away, leaving Steve to carry feelings of abandonment for most of his life. When she entered hospice care, he reluctantly agreed to move her into his home with his family and care for her in her final months. Small moments of reconciliation happened, but learning of the Facebook account made him realize there might be a lot he did not know.

Deep relief and quiet joy filled him as he read her public status updates expressing gratitude for her son's sacrifices for her. Because he was unaware of his mother's digital life while she was alive, Steve could not share in this powerful moment with her. On a positive note, Facebook enabled Steve to learn more about his mother's private experiences, which will, in turn, shape the story he tells of her life to his children. But what if he had discovered hurtful or confusing information? She would not have been there to confront, explain or repair the relationship. A painful gap would be left in her story — and in his life. Inspired by this experience, Steve and his wife have committed to inventorying their digital assets to spare their own children anxiety. They are also painfully conscious of how others might react to what they post about their own lives and they understand that, if something happens to them, the person managing their estates will need access to the good, the bad and the ugly in their online lives.

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