Source: The Wall Street Journal

Every day we’re seeing more and more stories addressing what happens to your iTunes account, Twitter, Facebook and every other aspect of your digital estate when you die. And this is a great thing! The Wall Street Journal, which has covered this topic before, once again tackles this important issue with the recent story “Make Sure You Know Who Will Inherit Your Twitter Account.”

The WSJ also provides a nifty chart outlining the five states with digital estate laws (Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Oklahoma, Rhode Island,) and the 12 states with proposed legislation (Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia).

Some other worthy tidbits from the story

--The most important thing, estate attorneys say, is to establish procedures for protecting and granting access to passwords and for transferring assets and account ownership.

--By placing the license and necessary passwords in a trust, access to such accounts can be preserved.

--Estate advisers caution against listing digital assets and passwords in a will because the will can become public. Such information instead should go into a separate letter.

via The Wall Street Journal

What do you want to happen to all your online accounts when you’re gone?
 

An article on Alleywatch.com, a site that offers important and topical news surrounding New York startups, mentioned us in an insightful article entitled Does Your Target Market Need to be the 50+ Crowd?

Here’s what they had to say about our founders’ presentation at the Aging 2.0 event held in New York City on September 12th:

While using the Internet to share all the “happy transitions” in her life, like her wedding and pregnancy, Abby Schneiderman wondered what people did during the “unhappy transition,” like illness and death. Together with her partner, Adam Seifer, she launched Everplans to ensure that everyone can have a plan in place. Starting out as a content-only site, the duo decided to expand into creating a handful of essential items people need to get started once they enter information – like resources on how to write a will if a user states he/she hasn’t already written one. The site also allows users to set who can have access to their information. Everplans has started working with a few hospitals and healthcare facilities to guide their patients through some of the sticky decisions they might have to face later.

Thanks again for the mention and for recapping all the other great presenters that night. We genuinely appreciate it.

[Click here to read the full article]
 

A new Time magazine cover story ask a really cool question: “Can Google Solve Death?” The answer: No. Google can’t solve death. But they’re trying.

The story has very little information about Calico, which is the name of the anti-death project Google’s developing in one of their super-secret labs that built the self-driving car and mini-computer you wear on your face. Instead it’s a profile of the mega-company, their philosophy regarding huge challenges (like death), and a rare interview with co-founder Larry Page.

A few interesting excerpts if you don’t have time to read it:

Page on Health Care

“In some industries it takes 10 or 20 years to go from an idea to something being real. Health care is certainly one of those areas. We should shoot for the things that are really, really important, so 10 or 20 years from now we have those things done.”

Remember Google Health?

This story cites example of Google cutting their losses when a project isn’t working out, like Google Health, which was a personal-medical-records service. It was a bold initiative that we had completely forgotten about.

Page’s Analytical Take On Cancer

“One of the things I thought was amazing is that if you solve cancer, you’d add about three years to people’s average life expectancy. We think of solving cancer as this huge thing that’ll totally change the world. But when you really take a step back and look at it, yeah, there are many, many tragic cases of cancer, and it’s very, very sad, but in the aggregate, it’s not as big an advance as you might think.”

[Click here to read the full article]

Here’s a question to think about: Is death a problem we need to solve?
 

"You want me to eat what?!?!?"
Photo Source: Photographer Shawn Inglima, New York Daily News

In a Daily News story about New York’s legendary Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, which can now openly accept human remains to be buried with their pet one odd fact stood out: A woman suggesting she wants her dog to eat her ashes when she’s gone.

“I want some of my ashes to be fed to my dog, like mixed up with his food or something.”

Yuck?

Perhaps Kerry Vera was just speaking off the cuff. She seems brimming with personality, loaded with tattoos, pink hair highlights and a beaming smile. We’re not sure how her 1-year-old Chihuahua pooch named Krishna feels about the questionable meal.

This does highlight the unbreakable bond people have with their pets. Whether it’s wanting to spend eternity with them, or become a light afternoon snack for them, regulators are starting to take note and make accommodations. According to a position paper from The Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries, as of 2011 Florida was the only state that had an actual law allowing human cremains to be buried in pet cemeteries, but that trend appears to be growing as NY officially joins the fold.

As an aside, Krishna happens to be the world’s smallest Ru Paul impersonator, performing in local clubs under the name “Ru Small.” You know, we’re gonna stop writing before this story gets any weirder.

Would you want to spend eternity snuggled up with your doggie or kitty-cat? Let us know in the comments.
 

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Warning: Prepare yourself for chills and misty eyes.

This ultimate lesson in paying it forward, which has set the Internet on fire over the past few days, comes from Thai mobile company TrueMove H. We hope their service plan comes with a box of tissues. Special Note: The part of the mean woman yelling at the child at the beginning for stealing meds for his sick mom is being played by Verizon.

Photo Source: Mortician Salary

An anonymous funeral director went on a very public rant about the flaws of his industry on Reddit around a month ago, which recently started getting passed around the Internet. Many have asked if I wrote it.  I did not. Though most take my word for it, some still have doubt. To be fair, I don’t fully blame the nonbelievers. It’s a known fact that I have issues with this taboo industry and I’m thrilled to have attention brought to the questionable commonplace practices.

Yes, there are funeral directors who thrive on the ignorance of the consumer.  As the author points out, every person should be aware of the FTC rules! Try to remember the few tips that the writer touched on: In most cases embalming is not necessary, you can bring your own casket, everything you purchase needs to be broken down on the General Price List (GPL), and YOU are the one who can/should decide what items you want. The FTC is there to protect you. Let them! The suggestions in this article are certainly spot on.

The issue that I take with this tirade is that I would never make such scathing generalizations.  While I’m not surprised to hear that these disgraceful practices exist, the author is doing funeral directors an injustice by painting them in such poor light. Like any other industry, there are good and bad people in it. There are some extremely morally reprehensible employees who manipulate the consumers.  There are also, however, men and women who, on a daily basis, sacrifice their time, relationships, and mental health for the sake of their suffering clients.

I suggest you all read this blog post, Ten Reasons I’m A Funeral Director by Caleb Wilde. it’s another perspective from a very honest funeral director. Not all employees are scheming and terrible; remember that.

The author correctly reminds readers that when we are in need of funeral services, we are emotionally unstable and will likely make less rational decisions. This is why I always stress to PLAN AHEAD! This is the most important advice you can hear. If you go into the process before it’s necessary, you protect yourself entirely. You can take the time to ask questions and think about what you want. Without emotions, you will be able to rationally assess the situation and create a funeral that is entirely to your liking. 

The author reminds us that “this is a business.” Therefore, he is a business man- he wants you as a client. He claims that he will suggest you take your business elsewhere if he does not think you will spend; that’s highly doubtful. Do not be afraid! This is a two-way transaction and you need to stand up for yourself!

I most certainly did not write the aforementioned article—I’m also a bit more tactful when it comes to this issue—but I’m glad that the writer did because anything that gets people talking and planning is a good thing.

Please let me know if you have a negative view of funeral directors and why in the comments. I really want to know!
 

In a courtroom, one is compelled by law to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Does this same moral approach apply to eulogies and obituaries? Is honesty really always the best policy? Or, is the applicable saying here: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all?”

I am notorious for not filtering my words; if something’s on my mind, chances are it comes out my mouth. While I’m a firm believer in always stating your true thoughts, there’s a caveat to my preaching: It’s not necessary to publically badmouth the dead.

Others contest this standpoint and claim that since the deceased can no longer be offended, it’s more important for the living to be able to vent. Clearly, the offspring of Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick and opted to very publically share her true feelings about her mother. Here’s an excerpt taken from a Huffington Post article:

“On behalf of her children whom she so abrasively exposed to her evil and violent life, we celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the after-life reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty, and shame that she delivered on her children. Her surviving children will now live the rest of their lives with the peace of knowing their nightmare finally has some form of closure.”

Although the writer claims she is airing the dark truth in hopes of bringing attention to the issue of child abuse and potentially helping others, I’m not sold. I feel that it all could have been done in a classier way. Even if the deceased can no longer be offended, it’s also true that they cannot defend themselves.

When it comes to the all-important eulogy, even I have been known to bite my tongue. I prefer to simply omit the negative and just focus on the positive attributes. (No matter how much you might contest, it’s always possible to find something nice to say.)

What do you think? Should we curb our comments or does brutal honesty provide some sort of closure?

Photo Source: Joe Woolhead, Tribute in Light 2010, 911memorial.org

Unfortunately, grief does not have a set time limit. Although some of us are able to move on quite quickly, for others the process takes longer. We all grieve differently. On this national day of remembrance, I’d like to offer a few resources for those of you who were affected by 9/11 and need guidance in moving on in a healthy way. 

Families of September 11

Family members of September 11th victims established this organization in October 2001.  Their goal is predominantly to support all family members, survivors, responders, by keeping them up-to-date with relevant information, providing other resources, and working to champion related policies. 

WTC United Family Group

This organization focuses on not only supporting those who lost loved ones on September 11th, but also educating the population through first-hand accounts and other means to keep this historic event stimulating and relevant to the younger generations. 

Fiancés & Domestic Partners of 9/11

This is a resource for those who were in committed relationships, but were not legally married to a victim of September 11th.  For more information on how to join this group, please email fianceesof911@aol.com

Dog Heroes of 9-11

Source: Petloss.com

Let us not forget the brave four-legged victims of this attack.

If there are any organizations that have offered you comfort or help, please share them with me in the comments below. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who are remembering loved ones on this difficult day.
 

Author Katy Butler’s new book, “Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death,” which chronicles her mother’s decision to opt against end-of-life medical treatment, is available today. A preview of Butler’s book appeared as the Saturday essay in the Wall Street Journal and serves as the perfect primer. (She also wrote about her father's struggles at the end of his life to die the way he wanted in the New York Times in 2010.)

While Butler offers a touching personal perspective, she also confronts the concept of “dying well” on a grander scale, estimating that “medical overtreatment costs the U.S. health care system an estimated $158 billion to $226 billion a year.” She also asks tough questions about what people say they want at the end of their life and what they actually want. “Why don't we die the way we say we want to die?” she asks. “In part because we say we want good deaths but act as if we won't die at all.”

We could recount the whole article, because it’s that compelling, but you should click over and read it for yourself.

Photo Source: Santa Ana History

One of the main complaints about the funeral industry and funeral homes is they are technological dinosaurs. Death certificates are typed out on timeworn typewriters, files exist only in tangible form in metal cabinets, and plans made face-to-face.  Clients (that is, you and me, when someone has died), who are used to accomplishing tasks immediately on our iPhones, cannot understand why important documents can’t simply be emailed to us instantaneously. It seems unfathomable to have to wait four weeks to receive additional death certificates. How can these companies still use typewriters?

Recently, there’s been a big push to bring the funeral industry into the 21st century. Companies and independent owners are learning that to compete for customers, they ought to, at the very least, have a useable Website. Otherwise, how could a customer know about their services, or even their location? Nobody takes the time to physically visit places anymore! Some homes have gone further, offering other amenities such as online obituaries. Brilliant! Nobody reads newspapers anymore-- death notices should be online. These are all fantastic additions to the death-care industry.

Right?

I think we should all take a minute before enthusiastically responding “Yes!” I agree that it’s crucial for every company in this day in age to have a legitimate Website. I worry, however, about a historically slow-moving industry jumping into technology. What’s the big deal you might ask? Well, something like this could easily happen.

“Funeral Home Sent Grieving Kin…”

Clearly, the directors at this funeral home did not intend for the client to receive this email. Regardless of how you feel about the funeral industry, I feel confident saying this was either a horrible mistake or an evil prank perpetrated by a sick individual. The funeral home claims their email was hacked. But what if they didn’t have an email account to begin with? What if they only contacted their clients through regular mail?

I know this is an isolated incident, which is getting attention for its salacious nature and pending lawsuit, but let’s think about the possible repercussions. What if inappropriate photos are posted on Instagram, twitter or Facebook? Should everyone be allowed to comment on obituaries? What if a resentful ex wants to voice his or her feelings about the deceased? Who should be the gatekeeper? The funeral industry deals with customers at their most sensitive moments. In this industry mistakes cannot be made; there are no second chances.  So, do we really want to push them to be more vulnerable? Or are these just growing pains the funeral industry must bear while it catches up with the rest of society?