Afterlife planning and the legal profession that supports it seem to be lagging behind our cultural realities.
Last year, I did something that I don’t think many, if any, of my friends, peers and similarly-aged colleagues have: I paid a lawyer to draft me up a formal will. Something seemed missing, though, as I went through the process.
I don’t have a net worth or children to whom I would want to offer an inheritance anyway, but I do own a home and a business and have a (very) modest retirement account. Ownership of the first two seem complex enough if anything unmentionable were to happen to me, so I paid less than $1,000 (more than a cookie cutter will) to detail my wishes for the worst in all the legalese necessary, and now have a document I should pay to have updated whenever a new major life milestone confronts me — new major assets, marriage, children, etc.
So I met with a young lawyer at a firm my business has used, had a conversation, sent over some documents and chatted some more out.
Despite her youth, I seemed to utterly confuse her when I expressed interest in trying to detail my plans for my web presence — social media, blogs, domains, this site and the like. “The legal profession hasn’t really kept up with stuff like that,” she said, which of course is silly from my vantage point.
Websites like Legalzoom and web-based afterlife planning services have tried to disrupt this stodgy conversation and I understand that the rapidly moving web world doesn’t work well with the permanence of legal planning, so I simply wrote an addendum to the will with some general requests.
Facebook has largely confronted the question, which will help set expectations, but I’d expect our presences online to become more important and the questions appear to be real ones. How soon after my passing should my family be reasonably expected to host, say, this site or even the domain? Could they become assets (if another Chris Wink wanted the domain, for example?)
It’s important to me now and will become more so. Because of that, if I update my will in the future, I’d hope to have a better plan for the future.