Something We Need to Talk About

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I used to have a website all about freelance writing. It was supposed to allow me to teach what I’d learned about the business of writing, and also to make money.

I failed miserably at the second and usually felt like I was shouting into the wilderness, so I shut the site down.

But every now and then I feel a pull to write about businessy topics, and today is one of those days. I hope you’ll forgive me for stepping out of the crafty world for a few minutes. But if you blog for money, have your own business or otherwise make your way online, this is stuff you need to think about.

It all boils down to one question: what will happen to your blog, your business, your web presence, when you die?

This is on my mind because one of my online colleagues, Kevin D. Weeks, died recently. The rest of us were left with questions about things like how would our bosses — who live half a country away — be notified. How would our readers be notified? How would our heirs know what to do, who to contact, when to take our sites down?

The only way they’ll know is if we tell them. At the very least, we need to leave some basics behind in a findable place, whether that’s a file in the front of the filing cabinet or a document on the computer someone knows to look for.

This document or file needs to contain:

  • all e-mail addresses and current passwords
  • links to website admin areas and passwords
  • information about your web host, domain registration and any other information that would be needed to shut down your website
  • current job information including major clients and their contact information
  • information on affiliate accounts, advertising on your site and any other web-based accounts (Paypal, etc.) that might need to be closed upon your death; especially include information on any accounts or charges that happen automatically from month to month so they can be cancelled
  • if you have a business checking account or credit card, include information such as account numbers and passwords (this is really true for any accounts you have separate from your spouse or whoever will be dealing with your final arrangements)

I know this isn’t something we want to think about, but it’s true that most of us never know when we’re going to go. We hope we’ve long since retired from the online writing game, but we might not have. It will be so much better for those you leave behind if some basic information about your writing life is easily available to them.

It just so happens that now is a great time to think about this sort of stuff, since you’ve probably just spent a lot of time with your business and personal papers. Don’t consider tax season done until you’ve made up one of these documents, and remember to update it at least annually or even when you pay your quarterly taxes if something significant has happened in your business in the meantime.

What have you done to help your family take care of your online life when you die? Did I leave anything off the list? I know it’s not fun to talk about, but I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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  1. Great list, Sarah. I have a a particular booklet that has all my passwords, website info, etc…. My family knows about it and where to find it, but it isn’t something that will be as useful as it should be for those left to close out the business (so to speak) of my life.

    For myself, I also want to make sure a) I have an executor of my estate lined up, and b) that they know what to look for and where.

    Another thought I have…. I do not keep this information on my computer — for a reason. I do *not* want such sensitive information anywhere where a hacker could get at it.

  2. Yes, I was thinking about that, not leaving it on the computer. Having a printout makes a lot more sense. My husband has a list of passwords on his computer, but it’s password protected and I don’t know the password 🙂 And yes, having a particular person who you know will deal with things and knows what to do is essential, too. Thanks, Beth!

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