What happens to your online life after you die? - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

What happens to your online life after you die?

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Estate planning is an important thing to do in the event of your death but these days many people's lives are as active online as they are in the real world.

Photojournalist Ben Cutshall will live in our hearts forever here at News 8, and thanks to Facebook and other social media sites he lives forever on the internet too, his family is taking steps to keep his legacy alive.

"We wanted to make sure that it was memorialized and kept out there as long as possible, so we took the steps to make his pages memorialized and access to people who still want to see them today," son Gavin Cutshall said.

So you can find his photography all over Flickr and other popular websites, along with complimentary comments. Ben's family deletes the negative ones to keep his memory as positive as possible.

Rebecca Coates Nee teaches media technology at SDSU, and warns her students who you are online could be used to judge you in life -- and death.

"God forbid I were to get in a car accident on my way home. Whatever I last posted, that's my last word in this life. That's something to think about," Nee said.

Which is why digital estate planning is a quickly growing field, with people deciding who they'll leave their passwords with to protect their image after their gone and making sure embarrassing emails get deleted.

"I would have all my passwords to all my bank accounts all my email accounts and all my social network accounts with that person right now," Nee said.

In Ben's case, access to his e-mail was needed to pay household bills sent directly to his inbox. His wife didn't have the password, but his kids were able to find it.

This whole experience taught Gavin a lot about preparing for the worst. But he'll gladly take the bad, because the good greatly outweighs it.

"I do like the thought of the internet because it allows people to live forever," Gavin said.

Facebook still allows friends to post comments on pages of people who have died, allowing friends to post birthday messages or other thoughts to honor their friends.

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