Preparing Your Post-Mortem

16 July 2013. Filed under category Nomad.
Cloudy with a chance of piano.

Cloudy with a chance of piano.

What does Mahatma Gandhi, Hitler, the virgin Mary and your great-great-grandfather have in common?

They are dead. Dead deadily-dead-dead dead. And unless you are planning to buck some pretty solid statistics, you will die as well.

So what happens to all the people and stuff you leave behind? That is the topic of today’s article, with the focus on the special considerations required by nomads and ‘digital’ people.


If a piano falls from a ten-story building and crush me in a D-minor crescendo, how will my family and friends find out about my musical death?

If I am in my home country it will take the police very little time to piece together who I am, where my registered address is and who are my next of kin.

If I live in a far-away country, this whole process takes a lot longer. Not that I would be in a hurry (I’m dead) but nervous family members may start interpreting every week-long silence from me as a sign that I’m chilling out in a Peruvian morgue.

Since I spend most of my days far away from a police force that know me, I carry a simple ID card in my wallet with my name, nationality and a few next-of-kin details.

That won’t do much good, however, if an alligator eats me alive – flesh, clothes and wallet all together. For this and other gory eventualities where my wallet disappears alongside my body, I leave a copy of my ID card in my luggage.


From which movie is this frame? Answer in the comments!

From which movie is this frame? Answer in the comments!

If you are geo-static, then your social network is probably focused on one or a few locations. If you die in a freak custard-related accident, then your relatives will put a notice in the local paper and the news will get around to all concerned.

If you are a nomad, however, then your friends are probably grouped into pockets dispersed throughout the world. The only person they have in common is you. If you die, your friends may never find out that you are dead or the hidden dangers of custard.

You could instruct your next-of-kin to update your Facebook status to ‘deceased’, but not all of your disparate friends will be on social networks. (And ‘deceased’ is too easily misread as ‘diseased’.)

My solution was to create a group in my contact list titled ‘To be informed of my death’. These are the contacts that I expect my next-of-kin to – you guessed it – inform of my death.

Digital Assets

Don't be a social zombie.

Don’t be a social zombie.

Do you know what will happen to your Email, Google, Facebook, webhost or cloud backup accounts when the grim reaper comes knocking? What about your laptop? Who will get that when you die? And do you really want your relatives going through your files? Think carefully now. Exactly. Figured.

Some online services will allow you to set up a controlled transfer of ownership in the inevitable case of your death, but most do not. For this majority, your only option is to give the login details to your intended recipients. This will make them criminals guilty of identity theft, but until this first digital generation starts dying en masse and proper routines for digital inheritance is established, there is no other way.

Of course, you probably don’t want to hand over the keys to your digital home while you are still living in it. To solve this you need a system or a service that will release your various login credentials only after your confirmed death.

The service I went with is Legacy Locker. In short, you create a number of digital assets (e.g. your Facebook credentials) and allocate them to various beneficiaries. Your death must be confirmed by a set of verifiers (of your choosing) before the assets are given out.


The Grim Sweeper

The Grim Sweeper

You can’t set up your post-mortem system and then forget about it. (You don’t want your ex to remain the beneficiary of your online journal after that hateful breakup.) So I’ve created an annually repeating task in my Getting Things Done system for updating my post-mortem system. During the update, I will

That’s it! You can now die in peace knowing that your digital life and nomadic friendships are all taken care of.

Happy afterlife!

Eaten Alive

For how long do you have to stay alive while being eaten for it to count as having been ‘eaten alive’? If an alligator eats my big toe, and this causes me to lose my balance and knock my head on a bowl of custard that smashes to bits of which one goes through my eye and into my brain, killing me instantaneously, would I still be counted as having been ‘eaten alive’, presuming the alligator doesn’t mind the custard and finishes his meal, i.e. me?

Travel Updates

I am still in Sweden, hanging out with my family in Ljungby and generally enjoying the sunshine, buckets of strawberries and mum’s cooking. Life is good.

I’ve had a lot of free time, and I’ve rediscovered my love for computer games. Probably not a good thing for the long term, but there you go. Old addictions are hard to kill.


Have you prepared your post-mortem?

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  1. Anthony says:

    Hi Gustav. Something you need to keep in mind is that having your username/password might not be enough to access your Facebook account (and maybe other accounts).

    I experienced this just a few weeks ago: I tried to log into my Facebook account from a computer that I had never used before (to access Facebook) from a location (ie IP address) that I had not accessed Facebook from previously. As a result, Facebook found that suspicious and then sent me a text message with a code to enter. On top of that to prove it was really me they showed me some pictures of some of my friends and I had to recognize them. I thought it was a very good security feature (if someone manages to get your facebook password it’s unlikely they will recognize the face of your friends).
    This means that the person you trust to access your Facebook account after your death might not be able to if they can’t receive the text message from Facebook or are not able to recognize your Facebook friends.

    As a test, I did it again (accessing Facebook from a new location) but from the laptop I had already used before. This time I didn’t have to go through the security checks (I guess Facebook noticed the cookie on my laptop from a previous connection). The other way round worked as well (accessing Facebook from a new device from an existing location (ie IP address)).


    1. That is a very good point! Not really sure how to deal with that. Too good security… Suggestions?

      1. Anthony says:

        It depends on why you want you next-of-kin to access your Facebook account. If it just to notify your friends of your death then you could prepare a list of friends who need to be notified (name and email address), upload that file on Legacy Locker and ask your next-of-kin to email them. Of course you will need to keep that list up-to-date.

        As you know how to program, you could also create a scheduler which would automatically email your friends if you haven’t accessed a web page for more than a month. Basically once a month (week?) you would access a webpage that you would have created yourself. If you access it it means that you’re alive, if not is that something went wrong so the webserver could send you a reminder by emal (you could have simply forgotten to access the webpage last month) and if you still don’t access the webpage after, say, a week the webserver could send an email to some very close friends (with a link to click on if they know that you’re alive but can’t access the internet for whatever reasons or on the contrary if they know you’re dead). You could apply all sort of logic. This way you wouldn’t depend on anyone to notify your friends: the webserver would do it for you (“if you receive this email it means that something (very) bad happened…”). But make sure there’s no bug in your code as I’m not sure your friends would find it funny.

        1. That first thing is exactly what my ‘To be informed of my death’ list is.

          The automatic system is a cool idea. It does do away with the human element (well, except me as the programmer). The negative is that it can only be a pre-programmed message. And these friends, lovers etc may want to know some more about what happened.

          1. Eli says:

            A while ago I looked into – a site that with some frequency asks you to confirm that you are not dead. In case you die, it will send out the messages you have created to selected recipients. After few months it became too depressive for me – I do not feed live sharks on daily basis and hope to live for some 40 to 50 more years. I probably should have restarted that service before trips that involved significant risks to health and life, but somehow it feels too massive for daily use by a rooted person like me.

            1. Anthony says:

              What I had in mind is very similar to deathswitch. Their website looks a bit weird and difficult to use so I’m not sure I would trust them especially given how easy it is to schedule an email to be sent to you automatically with a link to click on to confirm you’re alive. If you don’t click on it, the scheduler could resend it a few days later etc If you still don’t click on it the scheduler would email your friends automatically. It’s true that it would be a pre-programmed message but in that message you could ask them to contact your next-of-kin to get more information. You could also do it the other way round: instead of emailing all your friends, the scheduler could email only 2 or 3 close friends (safer to email more than 1 person just in case the email gets lost) with the list of people you want them to contact if something bad has indeed happened to you. In practice that would take 1 second of your time every month to click on the link in the email.

  2. Here is a bonus tip for those of you who read the comments. Like a reward for faithful and thorough reading… If you give out your email credentials, you are basically giving out your credentials to all your other services as well since you can usually recover the credentials for a service using the registered email address.

  3. J. Heider says:

    I think fireworks spelling out one’s demise is a good option…

  4. Vagina says:

    This got my grey matter working.
    You, and like many others similarly to you who travel, are oft in places strange and far.
    Why not design a checking in, or safety app, that allows travellers to update where they are, where they are planning on going. So if they don’t turn up, or check in within a period time, it email ‘x’ to give them the updated info on exactly where they last were, names of hotels or even people.
    IF, and I do say if, something were to go a wry, there is a more detailed plan of where that person has been.
    In my last year of college, 2 people went missing, it was really difficult to track where they had been, with whom, anything really. Both separate cases.
    PLUS I can see a huge market of concerned parents wishing to invest in such items for their gap year kids, or folks exploring the world.
    Just a thought.

    1. Google Latitude worked pretty well. You could share your location with friends etc. But, Google announced a few days ago that they will disband the service. A real shame. I used it to populate the ‘Gustav was last seen’ notice on the first page of this site.

  5. Vagina says:

    PS those weren’t people actually in my school, rather cousins or friends of people at my college. That would make that college rather callous, which, actually it was.

  6. Anne says:

    Hey bit morbid don’t you think?? Though this is coming from someone who tends to have their life storyline based on when & which person, animal died around the era of what ever incident their in the middle of discussing(not2confusing I hope)..So, If u meet me people, no need2 offer condolances Ive come to terms with those people’s passing I just tend not to ignore or avoid talking about them..cause for me in a way there not dead..(if you remember them they are always with you, they shape you as all human contact does!!.). Totally off the subject I guess(well kinda). Can’t say Ive thought about who will have my fb page or social networking anything really.. Think giving that stuff over2anyone else is rather pointless.. Is like someone hanging onto a photo album that is not their own(makes little sense unless the pictures are directly relevant to them in some way). There are certain people that Id want informed about my death, but not sure it matters how one dies(like you said we all do at some point).. Im not Nomadic, maybe semi-nomadic..can’t seem to stay in one place for more than 6-12months though Ive been where I am for almost 2 & a half years & Im needing to shift on again(can feel it).. Have animals so will not leave the country, am content with that part of this life at least 😉 Am not hugely social myself, have a few close friends only one that I see regularly. Have met plenty but I do believe that you cant hold on to people. They are with you for the time you need them & then other fazes of ones life begins(is the same for us all.. change is the only real constant)..Any way, those that matter most to me would realise my demise, purely on the fact that their meal ticket had (Cupboard love.. Unconditional actually, although am sure my dog & horse have particular sweet spots for me thanks to the steady meals & occasional tit bits.. I’ll take what I can get..). My family I talk to & see reasonably often, so maybe I’ll be missed if I drop off the edge of the planet, but honestly am quite fine with them seeking out a medium & finding out what my username & password happen to be at the time.. In fact I’ll possibly b whispering in there ear if their tuned in enough perhaps they’ed her me.. Sorry but I heard somewhere that logic is “the doctrine of fallacies”.. & Ive always had a tendency to believe it : D

  7. Anne says:

    Oh & Gustav
    Am So So jealous of that sunshine you’ve mentioned your enjoying!! Aus, Adelaide Hills.. argh so not the place for me during winter months, pretty country side but bring on the warmer weather.. Have promised a friend I’d stay for horse riding during spring, summer & autumn.. When that time has elapsed maybe Queensland or NT for me.. Love the occasional need to snuggle in front of a combustion heater but 3 months of bone chilling cold & dreary(not my thing).. Am a sunshine girl I sure after the winds & pelting rain last night my horse would say the same thing 😉 at least it’s not as cold as it has been… Bring on Summer!!

  8. John Oliver says:

    When I die (in my last breath) the last thing I am going to concern myself with is my Facebook page. How others deal with my natural passing is entirely up to them. RIP

Have you prepared your post-mortem?

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