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What would happen if you passed away? August 31, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.

I know this is a morbid topic, but there was a brief discussion on Zahlungspraxis this morning about an agency owner who owed a translator money – and had for the past 3 years (which I hope would never happen to me. I would be sending reminders 14 days after the bill was overdue…). It seems this person was a 1-woman show, which happens a lot in the translation industry. Someone wrote in and stated that the person in question had passed away in September 2008 and chances were slim that any creditors would receive payment from the estate.

This got me to thinking about death – and specifically about estate planning and managing your online profiles. Have you given any thought to what might happen if you were to suddenly pass away? I have given this some thought recently. It has nothing to do with the fact that I turned 40 over weekend. I started last year when my grandmother passed away and my immediate family members started talking about their wishes for their funerals, burial plans, etc. I now have a notarized Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney for my personal side of things, but what about my business and online contacts? Would your family and/or executor know where to find the bills that need to be paid?

Right now I have two outstanding invoices for work I subcontracted in the last month. If something were to happen to me I would hope my executor would find the bills and pay them, but I realized I haven’t shown her how my system works. I need to have her over and show her where to find the information she will need (and how to use my money management software). Do you have an executor? Do they know where to find your legal documents and access your financial accounts? Also, something that is never discussed by estate planners but is very important in our field: do they know who to inform if you pass away unexpectedly? Do they know how to access your e-mail and notify the various forums in which you are active?

You might want to consider asking a colleague you trust to be your “online executor.” That person should have the password to your e-mail accounts so they can set up an autoresponder to notify your colleagues and clients of your untimely death. If you have a blog and/or website, it isn’t a bad idea to give the password(s) to that person as well so that they can log on and post the bad news – and eventually shut the sites down.

Just a little food for thought. Take a few minutes this week and jot down who might need to be notified if you were in a car accident or something. Your friends and family will be very grateful you took the time to do this. It is a very stressful time and careful preparation makes things a lot easier for your loved ones.



1. Steven Capsuto - August 31, 2009

Good idea. I don’t subcontract much, so I’m less worried about unpaid bills. But I have arranged to have my backup files destroyed in case of my death.

2. Sarah Dillon - September 1, 2009

I’ve thought about this a lot lately as 2 good friends around my age (now 30) have now passed away in different but equally tragic circumstances. Their families found it particularly difficult, I think, to contact friends (many of whom lived overseas and/or they’d never met) and to get word out about services, etc. in a respectful and appropriate way when they only had emails and/or Facebook profiles to work from, especially where they weren’t especially familiar with these forms of online communication themselves.

Of course, I couldn’t help but think how my family and friends would cope in similiar circumstances, and likewise, how I would cope in the reverse. Death may be morbid, but it’s life. I think it definitely makes sense to make arrangements like the ones you suggest above, Jill.

Strangely enough, I’ve never really worried too much about the business side of things. I have considered what would happen if something happened to me as a deadline approached, for example, and how would the client know and get the job back… but to be honest, I’ve come to the conclusion that if things were so bad I couldn’t contact the client myself, then work would probably be the last thing on my or my family’s mind and the client would just have to cope with re-assigning it!! (just like if I worked in-house somewhere, really)! 😀 I definitely need to make more formal arrangements more generally though.

Speaking of deadlines, I’d better get back to it… I’m smashing all my current records for translation volume this fortnight – I’ll definitely need a holiday once I’ve finished!

3. Corinne McKay - September 2, 2009

I definitely think that the “online executor” is an excellent idea. My husband doesn’t have signing power on my business account but he knows where all of the passwords are. So I always tell him, “If something awful happens to me, first you withdraw all of the money from the business account, then you cry” 🙂 .

4. delightedscribbler - September 5, 2009

You’re right, this a morbid topic. Still, it’s one we all need to consider. I’m glad you posted this. I have a will and an executor, but it hadn’t thought of an online an executor. Brilliant. I’m tossing that in.

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