Pass the Slaw

February 2, 2010 · Posted in Coverage · Comment 

slawFellow social media professional, Connie Crosby, has just posted the interview that she did with me about Death and Digital Legacy for Slaw is a Canadian co-operative blog for practicing lawyers, legal librarians, legal academics and students.

The interview, taken from a telephone conversation last December, gives an overview of some of the discussion points around digital legacy.

If you are a lawyer or notary who deals with estate planning, wills or copyright, I’d love to speak with you about digital legacy. Please contact me at adele |at| deathanddigitallegacy |dot| com



January 23, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

Media inquiries are welcome. Please contact me at:
+1.514.277.5623 (Eastern time zone)

My biography.

For media coverage of my presentations, please see the Past Sessions and Coverage area of my Speaking page.


AM 1220 Cornwall, Interview (audio link to follow)
May 21, 2010, John Bolton, Corus Radio

Wall Street Journal: Business, Who inherits the avatar?
May 10, 2010, Monica Gutschi, Dow Jones Newswires Kultur Have you written your webtestament? (translated from Norwegian: Har vu skrevet webtestament?)
April 6, 2010, Cecilie Asker

Get Connected Radio, Status updates from beyond the grave
March 20, 2010, Mike Agerbo & AJ Vickery, nationally syndicated radio show

IFC, Have you planned for your digital afterlife? (video)
March 14, 2010, Negin Farsad

The Montreal Gazette, Who gets your passwords when you die?
Associated Technocité article: I see dead people
March 10, 2010, Jason Magder

CanWest Global, Death and the Internet: new services tie up virtual loose ends
Nationally syndicated. Ran in Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun, Ottawa Citizen, Regina Leader-Post,  Edmonton Journal, Windsor Star, and more.
March 8, 2010, Shannon Proudfoot

The Ryerson Eyeopener, Logging out after snuffing out
March 2, 2010, Vincent McDermott

Canadian Press, Prepping digital assets for the great off-line
Nationally syndicated. Ran in Hamilton Spectator, Winnipeg Free Press, and others
February 7, 2010, Amy Dempsey, Adele McAlear on Death and Digital Legacy
February 2, 2010, Connie Crosby

Montréal Campus, On ne poke pas les morts
November 12, 2009 Naël Shiab
(Google English translation.)

New York Times, The Digital Afterlife
October 19, 2009, Jenna Wortham

Branchez-vous Blogosphère, Part 2 Testament numérique
September 30, 2009, Josianne Massé
(Google English translation.)

Branchez-vous Blogosphère, Part 1 – La mort, et après?
September 28, 2009, Josianne Massé
(Google English translation.)

HOW TO: Use Gmail For Digital Executor Instructions and Access

January 22, 2010 · Posted in Digital Executor · 3 Comments 


In another post, I talked about assigning a digital executor to manage your online accounts and digital content after you pass. Often the next question is, how will your digital executor know your wishes? And how will they gain access to your accounts?

I gave you some ideas in the article in The New York Times on The Digital Afterlife that involved keeping track of all your accounts and placing the information in an encrypted file, sealed envelope or safety deposit box. These options are the most viable for people who don’t have a very large digital footprint, who don’t change or add account information often, or who have basic needs. For people who are very active online, documenting accounts and passwords on paper may become unruly to manage and become out of date easily. To address this, some online paid services offer the ability to notify designated people of your passing, forward your final instructions or messages and safeguard your logins and passwords.

But, I’ve come up with an easy and free way to handle all of your instructions, logins and passwords while keeping the information safe and secure: Gmail.


gmail_logoSTEP 1: Create a Gmail executor account to house all of the account information and specific instructions for your digital executor.

STEP 2: Take an inventory of all of the digital assets you would like managed in some way after your passing. For instance, blogs, web sites, photo sharing sites, social networks, affiliate accounts, etc. Include on the list all of the email addresses you have registered and use on a regular basis along with their passwords. Don’t forget passwords to computers and the names or locations of important files on your hard drive.

STEP 3: For each asset, send an email to the Gmail executor account with the name of the asset in the subject line. In your email, include a link to the service, user name, and password. Also include the email address that the online service is registered to and its password (your executor may need access your email account to receive confirmation and notification emails, or to reset any online service passwords.) Finally, in the email, include the instructions to your executor of what you would like to happen with each asset after your passing.

STEP 4: If you want to leave any final messages, letters, videos or photos to be distributed or posted after your passing, you can email them with instructions to the executor account as well.

STEP 5: With your lawyer, update your will to designate your digital executor(s), include the Gmail email address and password, instructions to the executor on how to proceed and any special considerations that are unlikely to change over time. Remember, it’s best not to change the password to the Gmail executor account as it will mean making a change to your will.

STEP 6: Now, as you go about your day-to-day life, when your digital footprint changes – when you add an account, change a password, or you want to alter your intentions – simply update the information by sending an email to the Gmail account with the name of the asset in the subject line. Easy! As you are likely already at your computer or on your web-enabled mobile at the time you make a change to your online assets, sending a quick email to the Gmail executor account is a convenient way to manage your assets. Just remember, for security reasons, delete the email from your Sent folder.

STEP 7: If you plan on leaving a final letter or a prepared message for your executor to distribute to friends, family or social networks, use the Contacts listing to make their job easier. Include the names, email addresses, phone numbers and primary social network user name, if appropriate, of the closest people in your circles. Having this information at the ready will help your digital executor to follow through on your final wishes.


The process of creating a Gmail executor account will create a record of digital accounts and last wishes, in chronological order, making it easy to find your latest password or instructions.

You may also choose to create labels for the emails to categorize them as work, household, legacy etc. Create filters to automatically label emails, auto-archive messages or even forward them to another email address.

If you have more than one digital executor, you can set up filters and labels for each of them to find their instructions more easily. Or, you may choose to create a separate Gmail account for each executor according to their role. Just be sure that you send the appropriate information to the right Gmail address and include both in your will.

You should periodically maintain your executor email account to delete out of date information, review your final intentions, update the information in the Contacts list and double-check that everything you want to be included is there.

Ensure that the reset email for the Gmail executor account is up to date at all times. This is the alternative email address that Gmail uses should the account need a password reset. Normally this would be your primary email address. Consider leaving this email address and password in your will or with your lawyer for backup.


This email system can also help you in case of emergency or calamity, like a fire or flood. Scan important documents like passports, birth certificates, credit cards, insurance policies, deeds, wills, prescription and medical information and save them as pdfs. Next, email them to your executor account and label the messages as “emergency”. Now, if you ever lose your documents, you’ll have a digital copy that you can reference once you have an Internet connection.

Furthermore, if you’ve managed to access the account in the aftermath of an emergency, you’ll have phone numbers and email addresses of your close personal network via the Contacts list to be able to send word of your location and condition.


Some people have asked me about the long term stability and security of using Gmail to store their sensitive information vs. using another online service. Firstly, I think that it is highly unlikely that Google or Gmail will shut down any time soon. Stacked against the newness of some of the online ventures designed to keep my information, my confidence is with Google for longevity.

As for data security, there is always a risk, no matter how small. If we’re talking about a random hack attack on Gmail vs. a random attack on a service specifically oriented to hold digital legacy information, the odds say that, just by pure numbers, the Gmail account would be less likely to be hit. However, some people are distrustful of Google’s massive size, web-based location and remain unsatisfied by their informal “don’t be evil” motto.

Just as important paper files can be lost, stolen or destroyed, so can email and digital accounts be deleted, hacked or have their passwords misplaced. There is no perfect solution. Ultimately, it is up to each person to create a system  that works for their own personal style and beliefs.

What do you think, does the Gmail approach seem like a viable solution to you? What would you change? What are your concerns?


January 13, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 


As we spend more of our lives online, we are creating a volume of content that is unprecedented. In a world where everyone can be a publisher and a broadcaster, we are documenting our personal and professional lives on the web with photos, videos, blog posts, status updates, forum discussions, reviews, and snippets of day-to-day life that can be mundane, funny and deeply personal. We’re creating online relationships, building friendships – independent of geography – out of a constant stream of ambient familiarity.

Death and Digital Legacy is a subject with many touch points in today’s online world. Here are just some of the areas that I can address in this topic:

  • What should you consider about your digital legacy today?
  • What are the business implications of death online?
  • How is technology changing the mourning process?
  • How do families deal with a digital legacy?
  • What are the policies of the online services?
  • Who owns your content after you’ve passed on?
  • What policies do online services have for digital legacy?

My sessions use real stories of people and events to illustrate each scenario, and are presented with respect and care to both the subject matter and the impact on the audience. Each session contains practical and tangible information that people can relate to and act upon. This is a diverse topic with no single solution, but rather a variety of approaches. If time allows, discussion is encouraged.

Upon request, I am happy to customize the presentation to include information relevant to your specific audience and area of concentration.

Please contact me at Adele |at| DeathAndDigitalLegacy |dot| com for more information.


After a busy schedule in the first six months of 2010, I’m taking a break for the summer. Check back in the fall for more dates.


Podcamp Montreal
September 11 – 12, 2010

Presentation Video


Podcasters Across Borders

June 18 to 20, 2010


Presentation video

OGS-simcoe co

Ontario Genealogical Society,

Simcoe County Branch, Barrie, ON

June 5, 2010

webcom Montréalwebcom

May 26, 2010



Presentation video

Presentation slides (coming soon)

mesh conference

mesh conference

May 18 & 19, 2010



Presentation video (coming soon)

Presentation slides (coming soon)


Why everyone needs to appoint a digital executor before they die Financial Post

Marketwire (coming soon)

Get ‘porn buddy’ to clean up your digital debris when you die,

My favourite session was Adele McAlear’s session on Death and Digital Legacy Blog TO

Montrealer Adele McAlear hel a unique session about Death and Digital Legacy Toronto


Coming soon…

Ignite Montreal

Ignite! Montreal

March 2, 2010


Presentation video

Presentation slides

Presentation photos 1, 2, 3


…to the useful, like Adele McAlear’s what happens to all your online user accounts after you die.” Montreal Gazette



IABC Montreal

February 24, 2010


Presentation photos


Updates coming…


Updates coming…

PCTO10 120x60PodCamp Toronto

February 20 & 21, 2010

Session description

Promo: Audio interview with John Meadows


Presentation slides

Presentation video

Presentation photos 1, 2, 3


Adele’s presentation was very professional and she covered a lot of ground in the short time allocated.” Dandelion Web

More updates coming…


Speaker Rating & Comments

More updates coming…


Ignite! Ottawa

List of speakers

November 12, 2009


Presentation slides

Presentation video


Talk to your friends and family today” Tech Vibes

scary but necessary” One Mann’s Thoughts, Kneale Mann


you’re a heck of presenter on an important topic” @Isfan

Really gave me something to think about!!” @sluedee

podcampMTL logo

PodCamp Montreal

September 19 & 20, 2009


Presentation slides

Presentation outline September 18, 2009

Presentation recap, September 23, 2009

Presentation photos: 1 2 3


Audio interview with Daniele Rossi

As an entrepreneur it’s an important topic to consider…” Sprouter Blog, Erin Bury

« elle a porté à notre attention des questions que l’on doit se poser en tant qu’usagers des premières lignes des médias sociaux. », Mélanie Millette (Google English translation.)

It was a great presentation, and we also had a great discussion during the session…“, Poke the Bear, John Meadows

« Les politiques d’utilisation des réseaux sociaux varient et sont souvent difficiles à trouver en ce qui concerne les cas de décès. » Branchez-vous Blogosphère, Josianne Massé, Part 1 La mort, et après? (Google English translation.)

« Certains disent ouvertement qu’ils souhaitent disparaître de l’Internet lorsqu’ils seront morts. » Branchez-vous Blogosphère, Josianne Massé, Part 2 Testament numérique (Google English translation.)

« Nous nous rassemblons toujours pour pleurer, mais on peut être chacun à l’autre bout de la planète. » Montréal Campus, Naël Shiab (Google English translation.)


Discussing the need to appoint a ‘Digital Executor’ Great presentation by @adelemcalear.” @missrogue

This is one of the most unique & thought-provoking sessions I’ve ever been to at a Podcamp” @erin_bury

Yeah…dave’s right, you pretty much nailed it. You are now the guru of one of the biggest discussion points ever” @nickianitti

@SuzeMuse Agreed. Always enjoy @adelemcalear’s sessions” @davefleet

.@adelemcalear is a terrific speaker. Death and digital legacy. Fascinating topic and one we should be taking about more.” @SuzeMuse

you are a great presenter and congratulate you on taking on a important topic.” @isfan

it is awesome to hear people taking on tough subjects and nailing it. really got me thinking” @isfan

Absolutely loved your session at #pcmtl. Found it very moving and thought-provoking” @dallasllama

… most thought-provoking presentation and discussion on Death & Digital Legacy at #pcmtl” @zoonini

great presentation and discussion!!” @JohnMeadows

… your presentation was thought provoking.” @MolsonDouglas

…Many intereogations, great discussion!” @MaudCJ

Merci pour vos présentations au #pcmtl. Du très bon!” @bluteau

very lively, hope she’ll give us hints on how to organise our after death digital presence” @sdeclomesnil

I thought executing a regular will and deciding on organ donation was more than enough. Looks like I need to think about digital executors.” @AnnaG

Social Media + Death. As society learns to deal with the first, it also needs to learn to deal with the two together.” @RickWeiss

Death and social media may seem creepy, but when my mum died there I was using social media to notify family and friends of details.” @AnnaG

Looking foward to “Death and Digital Legacy in Social Media” at #pcmtl It’s been on my mind for a while now…” @marcboivin

What is a Digital Executor?

January 8, 2010 · Posted in Digital Executor · 4 Comments 


I see the role of a digital executor as someone who becomes the caretaker of your digital life. According to your instructions, or your digital will, the designated person would perform account management for you. There are many functions you may want them to perform. For example, you may want them to:


CC cybertoad

  • close certain social network accounts
  • upload a prepared final blog post
  • change your avatars
  • ensure your heirs get your affiliate income
  • archive your photos, videos, blog posts and other content
  • notify your online friends that you’ve passed
  • ensure that your web hosting is paid
  • delete files from your computer

There’s a myriad of digital information that may need attention, both online and on your computer’s hard drive. So take some time to think about what is important to you and what you’d like preserved and archived for your work, your friends and your family.


You may have one person that you trust to enact your wishes and take over management of all your digital affairs. However, perhaps it makes more sense to choose several people to perform different functions. If you have a small business, your web site, blog, affiliate accounts and Google AdSense account may best be managed by someone in your company who can see out your wishes. For Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and email accounts that are mainly for personal use, you may want to designate a family member or close friend. If you want certain files on your computer to be saved, forwarded, or in some cases deleted, you will need someone who is local to where you live or work and would be able gain physical access to it.

Whomever you choose, they should have the knowledge and ability to do what you ask of them in your final instructions. It would be best to choose a person who’s already familiar with the online world and has a modicum of  technical savvy. Be conscious that some people who are very close to you may not have the emotional capacity shortly after your death to cope with notifying and fielding questions from your social networks or dealing with your personal email.

What would functions would you want a digital executor to perform? What kind of person would you choose for that role? Would you have more than one? Let me know in the comments.


November 15, 2009 · Posted in Uncategorized · 2 Comments 


In 2007, a someone I followed on a social network died. In the aftermath I was struck with a feeling of connectedness through technology yet, I was grappling with a very real, physical conclusion.

Over the last few years, I’ve known more people, both directly and on the peripheral of my social networks, who have passed. As sure as taxes, it will happen to us all at some point. I started to notice that the ability to come together as a community, with technology bridging geography, was a comfort to many.

Yet, sometimes, I found a disconnect between people’s online communities and their physical lives, where families disregarded the long-established virtual lives of their loved ones out of a lack of understanding. Sometimes the social services themselves posed problems with a lack of policy or procedure for family and friends left to pick up the pieces.

As I started to talk about the impact of death in the digital community, more and more stories came forward of struggles, of solutions, and of people’s different reactions moving through the experience. Behaviours varied widely; what was acceptable to one individual was abhorrent to another. It became clear to me that, just as every birth is different, so is how each of us perceives and reacts to death.

Since first starting to explore this subject, I’ve realized that it stretches wider than ever imagined.  There are legal obstacles, thoughts about digital executors and wills, questions about ownership of content, security and privacy concerns, perspectives about the value of online content, discussions on the responsibility of software developers, and profound thinking about the concept of digital immortality.

My plan is to continue to research, speak and write about this subject, while using as the platform for this work. I look forward to exploring this topic with you and to providing a resource that will help people to plan for the future and consider the implications of their own digital legacy.

Share your story.

Have me speak.

For media, or other inquiries, please contact me at Adele |at| DeathAndDigitalLegacy |dot| com.

BIO: Adele McAlear

Rannie-mesh squareAdele McAlear is exploring the relationship between death, social media and technology through research, speaking and writing about digital legacy. She seeks to help people understand the personal, social, legal and business implications of all that they leave behind. The dedicated site for this project is at

Her expertise has been featured in interviews in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Canadian Press, on television, radio, print and digital. Notably, her article on digital legacy was published in the respected German-language journal for international cultural perspectives, Kulturaustausch.

Named one of the Top 10 Most Influential Women in Social Media in Canada, Adele McAlear is an early adopter of social media and a technology enthusiast who lives much of her life on the web. Adele’s marketing career spans more than 20-years and is an integrated marketing consultant based in Montreal. Her marketing blog is at

Photo: Rannie Turingan

New York Times Digital Afterlife

October 20, 2009 · Posted in Coverage, Interview · Comment 

Cross posted from


Yesterday The New York Times ran the interview I did about The Digital Afterlife and the need to appoint a digital executor:

Internet Protocol is Jenna Wortham’s advice column for technology. The question was:

Not to be morbid, but I have a lot of private information and details stored on my computer — in various Google Chat logs, e-mail and social networking accounts — that I wouldn’t want to be revealed when I log off for good. Who should I consult or what do I need to do to ensure my cache is cleared and e-mail and social networking sites accounts are deleted when I die?

This person wants to keep private things quiet. Perhaps they have another online persona or have made some online indiscretions or simply don’t want their family to know about certain dealings?

Things become much more complicated in attempting to keep this secret after they pass. Although there are automated services to notify your friends on social networks or selected individuals of your passing, in the case above, you’d still have to rely on someone to access your computer if you want your cache or sensitive files deleted. Yes, you’d need the digital equivalent of a “porn buddy” to wipe your computer clean of sensitive information, from financial information to, well, porn.

You can read my advice on appointing a digital executor here. What would you advise?

Have you appointed a digital executor to keep your online digital legacy alive? What about someone to delete private information from your computer or from online? Have you thought about it at all?

Let me know what you think.

PodCamp Montreal: Death and Digital Legacy

September 18, 2009 · Posted in Event, Speaking · Comment 

Cross posted from

podcampmtl-logoMy PodCamp Montreal session on Death and Digital Legacy is scheduled for Saturday @ 2:30 PM. And, to be honest, I considered canceling it.

This morning, news spread of the murder of Montreal blogger Renée Wathelet (@endirectdesiles). A fixture in the community, Renée fell in love with Mexico’s Isla Mujeres and moved there last year March. Although, we spoke on Twitter a few times, I only met her once, when she was in town for a visit last February and* came to Twestival.

So many people here loved Renée and were close to her. Many of those same people may be attending PodCamp Montreal. And so, I questioned whether I should cancel my session out of respect to her grieving friends. But, after consideration, I’m going ahead with the session in honour of all that Renée has created and her own digital legacy.

So, if you are interested in the topic of Death and Digital Legacy, I encourage you to attend my session. It will be a round table discussion and participation is encouraged. I will not be making a formal presentation, but instead will share stories that illustrate different discussion points. Some of these may include:

  • how do communities mourn online?
  • what are the policies of online social sites for families to access loved ones’ accounts?
  • do you need a digital trustee named in your will?
  • what are some of the new services that have started to manage digital legacy?
  • what are the hazards of dormant accounts, whether the user is deceased or not?

I hope to see you there.

Saturday, September 19, 2009
2:30 PM
UQAM Design Centre
1440 rue Sanguinet

*UPDATE 9/21/09: For more about Renée Wathelet, her friend and YulBiz founder Philippe Martin was interviewed about her on Montreal radio (in French) on 9/21. Listen here.

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