04/20/2016 04:31 EDT | Updated 04/21/2017 05:12 EDT

Decide Now Who Will Delete Your Digital Ghost When You Die

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On March 7, 2015 I lost someone very special to me to cancer. It was a short battle -- it ended just four months after her diagnosis and just slightly more than six months after she was off sick from work. Then, a few months later a notification popped up on my LinkedIn:

"Jane Smith* has a work anniversary. Celebrating 34 years at Company XYZ."

My heart sunk. I was taken aback by this for a short moment and then I was struck by sadness and grief, and then sadness again because Jane would have been so proud of her 34th anniversary. She had just one more year to go before she would start retirement.

Besides the sadness and grief, what I was also struck with was this: Who deals with your social media accounts when you die? Who deals with cancelling or completely removing social media accounts -- or telling followers or connections that you have died? And what can you do about this while you are still here?

As more and more people use social and digital media for updates, posts, photo galleries and sharing opportunities, I have often wondered how the Internet will look years from now with all this content from people who are no longer with us. And yet, their Twitter will still be active, their Facebook still connected, and their LinkedIn account still celebrating anniversaries and milestones.

This has been a lesson to me, which I will share with you. I now know what I need to do to prepare my loved ones and what I need to ask my loved ones to prepare for me. Here are my tips:

  • Make a list of all of your social media accounts (you may be surprised how many you have).
  • Now, make a list of all of your email addresses and associated passwords.
  • Include user IDs, social media handles, URLs.
  • Write down all of the sign-in details, including the passwords.
  • Write a note asking that if you are no longer able to cancel your accounts yourself because you have died, that your executor should cancel your accounts on your behalf.
  • Put all of this detail in a sealed envelope with your will and update the details when social media accounts are added.
  • Finally, share the knowledge. Tell others to do the same thing. Ask you parents, grandparents, siblings, spouse and friends.

Don't be concerned about sharing this personal information now. Just like your will, the intent is that it won't be opened any time soon.

By doing this, just maybe you can save someone a bit of sadness when you're no longer here, and they can avoid what I couldn't.

Sadly, I'm still waiting to see if Jane will celebrate her 35th anniversary on LinkedIn this year.

*Real name and real company not used

Judy Mann is a consultant | advisor with Judy Mann Communications. She offers internal and external communications and PR services, as well as specialized group and individual sessions and workshops on increasing interpersonal communications effectiveness, relationship building, public speaking and presentation style and delivery.

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