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My Life

Death in the Modern Era

There are things you can prep for, and things you can sort out, but digital security and accounts for the dead? Not actually easy.

Dad died in 2019.

As I near two years without my crazy old man, the thing I’ve learned most is that … there’s nothing out there to help you figure out what the holy hell to do with someone’s digital footprint!

The first thing you deal with is the government. For us, that was a drama because Dad was an ex-pat, and we had to get the State Department to issue a death notice (not certificate). This led to insane drama when health insurance, banks, and the like all got super shirty about not having an American death cert. After one of them complained they didn’t have anyone who read Chinese on staff and I said it was Japanese, I got fast tracked to people who could actually help. Funny how calling out racism works.

Once I got the paperwork, I called up credit card companies, got his recurring bills, and started to cancel them all. Only that did not go well.

Why not? Well. Have you ever tried to log into someone else’s accounts?

Thank god I knew my Dad had the habit of storing his password files on his laptop in an encrypted folder. He had also once given me the password so I could log in and fix something on the laptop. That meant I was the laptop admin and easily cracked the encryption (rather, I used the same flipping password from the laptop, real secure, Dad). With that, I went to all the account he’d logged into the list and recorded and tried to delete them.

It helped that I was his email admin. This means I moved all his email into my account and made his an alias of me. I knew I’d need the email to work to access legal things that would invariably sent to him. And this also meant any active accounts would get to me, so I could find them and close them. But…

I’m actually still working on that. I also exported all the Firefox logins (with passwords) and there are a lot of accounts to delete. 300. Even if I did one a day, it’s a full year of arguing with forms to let me in.

And that’s the real problem.

Some of those accounts (Instagram) require a phone number. Others just don’t let you delete the account without proof of death (and we’re back to the whole “Well it’s in Japanese, but here’s the state department letter…”).

I’m at the point now where unless they email me, I’m letting it ride. I deleted most of his social media (can’t get into Instagram, yes I asked them to memorialize it, no it’s not done yet). But if I didn’t know how Dad stored emails and passwords, and if I didn’t have access to his email, I’d be screwed for a lot of this. I have a list of things I cannot close and I’ve started to just auto-bounce their emails with “He is DEAD”

By the way, if your ‘you can’t unsubscribe if you have an account’ emails don’t come with directions on how to close the account, you’re an asshole CenturyLink. (Seriously: I get emails from them, for dad, saying we need to log in to see the new customer panel. So I do a password reset, and get told “no such email” … for the email address they were sending to… Their helpline hung up on me, and Twitter was useless. I’ve set their email to bounce if sent to his address.)

Anyway.

The point of all this?

There isn’t one. Death sucks.