Legacy Locker Gives Life to Digital Assets After Death

Service that launches today is tedious to set up, but can ease the burden on survivors

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I've had a chance now to try Legacy Locker, the Web service that will pass along your digital assets after you die. No, I'm not dead yet -- so I can't vouch for how it will perform in the clutch. But I've learned enough to see its value and more of its faults.

The startup launches its service today. The idea is a good one -- to have a central spot for storing passwords to online accounts, including banks, E-mail, photo storage and just about anything else that has a username and password. While consumers can buy the service directly, Legacy Locker hopes to catch on with estate planners.

Other sites offer similar services, including KeepYouSafe.com. KeepYouSafe is an online safety deposit box that will store five gigabytes of data for $50 a year. Loved ones can get to the precious stuff after you die if they have the password.

Or before you die, right? Because they have the password. That's a key distinction for Legacy Locker: Your digital stuff stays locked up until you're gone. It takes human intervention to get to your data. "Verifiers" you designate have to confirm, well, that you're pushing up daisies. One has to provide a death certificate.

Then the staff -- yes, a real human staff -- verifies things are in order and passes along the keys to your digital assets. That hands-on process is most of what you're buying for $30 a year, or $300 for lifetime membership.

For the fee, Legacy Locker stores unlimited assets and unlimited beneficiaries. The site also offers a free version for three assets and one beneficiary. A true cheapskate might use the free service to open up a free online account where other accounts and passwords are stored.

But at Legacy Locker, each asset can be passed to a different beneficiary. Right now, only one per asset. Cofounder Jeremy Toeman says the service soon will allow multiple beneficiaries in cascading order. The means if the primary beneficiary has also departed, there's somebody else to open the assets.

The site is attractive and easy to use, though adding adding usernames and passwords is tedious. I'd like it to work with other software, say password managers like RoboForm, where I might already store usernames and passwords. Toeman says it's an option under consideration.

Also, it's up to users for now to keep the usernames and passwords updated. Eventually, the site will periodically check if passwords are still working, Toeman says. Users would have to opt-in for that add-one service, which makes some nervous. It will also be difficult to pull off with banks and other institutions frequently changing sign-on procedures.

Some extras come with the service, including leaving notes to the beneficiaries. Toeman says it will soon include video messages. But it's mostly about easing the burden on survivors, whose grief gets compounded by dealing with all the issues left in the wake of a death.

Finally, I had to ask about Legacy Locker's prospects for a long life. It is yet another Web startup, after all. Toeman said he and cofounder Adam Burg have an innovative plan to ensure the service continues running, even if the company itself goes out of business. Details to come soon, he says.

Interesting. Not only is Legacy Locker promising to preserve digital assets after death, it's going to somehow preserve itself after death.