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Old 31 Jul 2017, 07:08 AM   #1
TenFour
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Email for Life?

A provider I rather like and use, POBox.com (owned by Fastmail), uses the slogan "Email for life." I rather like the idea, but I was thinking is that all we really need? When I pass I would like my heirs to be able to access my email, file storage, etc., but if for some reason my domain or email subscription has expired it will all be gone. I think of all the dire warnings I get from all the services that require monthly or annual billing, and occasionally how the loss or expiration of some credit card can throw everything off. If that happens to your domain and your email provider, poof, your life's digital history will be gone, and possibly more important will be the loss of messages concerning bills due, etc. I know that after my mother passed, who was not online at all, we received many important things in the mail for years afterward. For many of us today those items will be undeliverable with the loss of our digital identities. Everything in the cloud? What happens when you stop paying the bills for the service?
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Old 31 Jul 2017, 10:42 AM   #2
jeffpan
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prepay for 100 years, that would be for life.
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Old 31 Jul 2017, 01:44 PM   #3
odedp
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TenFour View Post
What happens when you stop paying the bills for the service?
Don't stop!
I use both Fastmail (since 2000) and Pobox (since 2001) and always renew for 5 years.
My sons have access to my passwords, so I don't see the problem
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Old 1 Aug 2017, 08:09 AM   #4
TenFour
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Sure, renew for multiple years, but that doesn't help if you die the day before the renewal notice goes out and nobody realizes that your domains or cloud storage will expire, etc. Someone will chime in now and say that you just have to remember to renew when on your deathbed. Having been through the death of several family members I can tell you that it takes years to sort everything out and you may not know where everything is located in cyberspace.
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Old 1 Aug 2017, 10:01 AM   #5
jeffpan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TenFour View Post
Sure, renew for multiple years, but that doesn't help if you die the day before the renewal notice goes out and nobody realizes that your domains or cloud storage will expire, etc. Someone will chime in now and say that you just have to remember to renew when on your deathbed. Having been through the death of several family members I can tell you that it takes years to sort everything out and you may not know where everything is located in cyberspace.
I also had this question. for example, I have a domain name whose evaluated value is xxxxxx USD, after I died in the accident, who will take benifit of this domain name?
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Old 1 Aug 2017, 11:36 AM   #6
n5bb
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Originally Posted by jeffpan View Post
I also had this question. for example, I have a domain name whose evaluated value is xxxxxx USD, after I died in the accident, who will take benifit of this domain name?
If nobody else has access (password and information about who is hosting the domain records), the domain will just sit there directing requests to the designated DNS server. If your DNS host is also paid up, then websites and email accounts which are paid up will continue to operate (if the host stays in business and doesn't require a login to maintain operation). When the accounts are in arrears, eventually the domain NS records will not work, and the domain will be available to be purchased by someone else.

My personally owned domain registration expires in mid-2024 (when I will be 70 years old). If I become incapacitated before that date without communicating the details to someone else or renewing the registration, the domain will be returned to the registrar and could be sold to someone else. My last renewal was for a 9 year term, including hosting the domain records. The Fastmail email account linked to my domain expires in early 2020, so email will bounce then if that's not renewed.

It's hard to guess how long domains, websites, and email services as we know them will be around. I have used many computer-related technologies which are essentially obsolete and not generally available for sale. At the time, it wasn't obvious when these would become obsolete, and in general these disappeared much sooner than I would have expected at the time I was using them:
  • Acoustic coupler and direct tip/ring telephone line connection low baud rate modems (just barely useful today)
  • RS-232 serial data interfaces (just barely useful today for special uses)
  • Teletype Model 15
  • Teletype Model 33
  • TI Silent 700 teleprinter
  • NEC Spinwriter
  • A wide range of dot matrix printers
  • HP Laserjet and other early laser printers
  • Monochrome 80x25 CRT terminals (character only)
  • Color 80x25 CRT terminals (character only)
  • "Centronics" and similar parallel printer interfaces
  • IEEE-488 interface (still used, but nearly completely replaced by VISA LAN and USB connectivity)
  • Punched paper tape 5-level Murray/Baudot data storage (Teletype Model 14 & 15)
  • Punched paper/plastic tape 7-level ASCII data storage (Teletype Model 33)
  • Punched card
  • 9-track magnetic tape
  • "Kansas City standard" analog Compact Cassette magnetic tape data storage
  • Digital Compact Cassette magnetic tape data storage
  • 3M DC100 magnetic tape cartridge
  • QIC (Quarter Inch Cartridge) magnetic tape (3M DC300, etc.)
  • 8 inch floppy magnetic disk (in a wide range of formats)
  • 5.25 inch floppy magnetic disk (in a wide range of formats)
  • 3.5 inch inch floppy magnetic disk (in a wide range of formats)
  • DEC RK07 removable cartridge magnetic disk platters
  • Iomega Bernoulli disk 8-inch
  • Iomega Bernoulli disk 5.25-inch
  • Iomega Zip disk
There were many other I/O and media types used between 1970 and 2000, but these are just some of the ones I was around. I used most of these myself.

My point is that industry went through a wide range of computers, I/O systems, storage media, and data formats in the 30 years between the age of minicomputers (starting in around 1970) and what we think of as a modern PC (around 2000). Similarly, wide scale network connectivity (what we think of as the internet) has seen great changes in the 25 years since the World Wide Web was introduced and search engines became available.

So I'm not sure if domains (and email) as we know them will be around in a few decades.

Bill
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Old 2 Aug 2017, 05:32 AM   #7
TenFour
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Quote:
So I'm not sure if domains (and email) as we know them will be around in a few decades.
I'm not in the crystal ball business, but my guess would be that email and domains may last a lot longer than other technology you have listed. The reason being is that billions of people utilize these things as part of their identities all over the world making them more like names, street addresses, or the names of cities. Yes, protocols for identifiers do change over the centuries, but not so swiftly because they become built into the fabric of so many things. It might be more practical for each one of us to go by a number or possibly a unique coded chip embedded in us at birth, but we still find very useful the old and clunky family names such as John Smith. Very low tech but hard to abandon.

One odd thing with regard to the "email for life" is that there are some free services, like Tutonata, iCloud, and I think Migadu that offer free email and claim your address never expires, making those addresses more likely to last beyond the grave.
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Old 5 Dec 2019, 03:18 AM   #8
TenFour
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I have learned that Gmail has something called "Inactive Account Manager." You can access it in account settings under "Data and personalization." You can set your account to notify one or more people if for some reason your account becomes inactive for some set period of time. You can also choose to allow that person(s) to download various types of data, and you can even schedule to have your account automatically deleted after some certain period of time. This is the best solution I have seen amongst email providers to formalize a process for when you are no longer able to access your accounts. Sure, you could just leave your username and password with some trusted people, but are you sure they will actually remember to save all your Google Photos and your last novel stored in Google Drive? With most paid email accounts access will just end when the bill goes unpaid.
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Old 15 Aug 2020, 11:13 PM   #9
TenFour
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Thread revival! In the time of COVID-19 this issue becomes serious for many people. Here in the USA more than 200,000 have died, and I suspect most of them did not expect to when they started to feel ill. This puts a spotlight on the issue that much of our digital lives will just evaporate eventually after we are gone. Personally, the main two things that worry me are causing huge hassles for my loved ones and losing my photographs extending back to when digital photos first became widely used. The hassles could be things like being unable to pay the electric, gas, or cell phone bills and/or not even remembering that it has to be done, because as of now these bills are only sent to me via email and are paid automatically from a checking account that is also managed online. Or, not being able to access that money in the online banking account. The list goes on and on of important things that would be difficult to deal with if my email account expired or became unavailable for some reason. One thought I've had for those that use paid email services is to consider having them automatically backed up to one or more reliable free services like Gmail or Outlook.com, that probably won't go away instantly if a bill isn't paid. As I noted above, Gmail has the Inactive Account Manager feature that could help too. One thing I do too is periodically print out on a piece of paper a list of important information, passwords, etc., that is stored in a secure location that other family members know about. But, someone still has to remember to save the email and photos and whatever else you have stored somewhere. This is a good argument in favor of using a local email client and local storage of important photos and documents, but you still have the issue of losing access to that email account if the bill isn't paid.
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Old 27 Aug 2020, 07:25 AM   #10
hadaso
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COVID-19 accounts for less than 10% of deaths. Heart attacks and cancer kill many more.
Anyway, utilities and the like have procedures for dealing with death of a paying customer. They know what to do to get someone to pay the bill.


Loss of digital assets is an issue. There are legal procedures that deal with transfer of property to heirs. with digital assets there are no clear procedures. The fact that standards change over time are npt the real issue. The real issue is that if you die tomorrow then no one will even know what digital assets you had that may be important to your heirs, or that you would have wanted to make sure they have access to. Perhaps people should list their important digital assets in their last will. Having a password is not as important because last wills have legal status and can be enforced (sorry if my English is not exact; it's not my first language, and neither is legalese).
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Old 31 Aug 2020, 03:20 AM   #11
emebrs
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TenFour View Post
In the time of COVID-19 this issue becomes serious for many people. Here in the USA more than 200,000 have died, and I suspect most of them did not expect to when they started to feel ill.
TenFour's (correct) point is that covid brought early mortality to a very significant number of people. Heart attacks and cancer can and do accomplish the same result: death. But it is worth noting that heart attacks and cancer do not spread multiplicatively. And if we broaden the question to whether pandemic disease has the potential, in general, to increase excess mortality at rates above what has occurred this year, the answer is a resounding yes. So TenFour's point is well taken.
Quote:
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COVID-19 accounts for less than 10% of deaths. Heart attacks and cancer kill many more.
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Old 31 Aug 2020, 08:10 PM   #12
TenFour
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The thing with something like COVID-19 is that one day you are fine and the next day you are hospitalized and in trouble, potentially. Sure, some heart attacks come without any warning too. But, my point was just that it is all too easy to bumble along in life without planning for "what if" situations that can arise so suddenly you leave a mess for those left behind. A dear friend's husband passed in December and she is struggling along with all sorts of problems having to do with his affairs.
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Old 1 Sep 2020, 05:17 AM   #13
hadaso
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Cancer can also come without warning: my wife's friend was hospitalized, they found a huge malignant tumor in her brain. She was not able to communicate with anyone from the time she was brought to the hospital. 2 or 3 days later she lost consciousness and about 2 weeks later she died in intensive care. Of course it's not contagious, and a contagious disease like Covid-19 has the potential to become a bigger cause of death.
But my point was that preservation of digital assets after death is a problem that is independent of Covid-19, and was a problem before Covid-19 (and will be a problem after Covid-19).


There is a little written about this in several Wikipedia articles. on this matters, and what I can learn from them is that there's a lot to be done in this area.


I thought that i need to store somewhere means of access to my important digital assets, such as my domain registrar account, my FastMail account (that is admin of the family account) and some other accounts, that would be made available somehow to my heirs when the time comes, but storing access credentials to my most important accounts scares me. My Fastmail password is only stored in my memory. Also, if one puts such info in a document somewhere, that document needs maintenance, because passwords change. having separate methods for the purpose of transferring control of accounts to heirs after death would be better than just making lists of account credentials available to heirs.
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Old 1 Sep 2020, 08:14 AM   #14
pjroutledge
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hadaso View Post
I thought that i need to store somewhere means of access to my important digital assets, such as my domain registrar account, my FastMail account (that is admin of the family account) and some other accounts, that would be made available somehow to my heirs when the time comes, but storing access credentials to my most important accounts scares me. My Fastmail password is only stored in my memory. Also, if one puts such info in a document somewhere, that document needs maintenance, because passwords change. having separate methods for the purpose of transferring control of accounts to heirs after death would be better than just making lists of account credentials available to heirs.
Lastpass has an 'emergency access' feature that grants a trusted person access your Lastpass vault if
  1. they attempt access (after you've informed them about it of course) AND
  2. you don't reject that access attempt within a set time limit (eg a few days)

Bitwarden has a similar feature on their to-do list.
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