Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dead and Gone

Last night, I dreamed that I was dead. Not dead-dead...but in my dream, everyone THOUGHT I was dead.  Including the government.  And including Linden Lab and Second Life.

My savings were gone.  My accounts were closed.  My credit cards were canceled.  My Social Security checks stopped coming (well, they haven't STARTED coming yet...maybe this dream was set in the future!)  No one would talk to me except for one lawyer, who advised me that rather than trying, probably unsuccessfully, to get the world to admit I was still alive, I should pretend amnesia, throw myself on public assistance, and start a new life as someone else.

As if being dead in Real Life wasn't enough of a problem, I had some real problems in Second Life too.  I own a sizable chunk of Mainland, and I have a sizable store of $L  I have tenants who pay me rent every month.  Not to mention my various jobs and duties and commitments, and my 50,000 item inventory.  That money was about to vanish into thin air, and that land was going to be reclaimed by Governor Linden if I couldn't do something about it.

As scary as this scenario is, it could actually happen, except for the still being alive to experience the frustration part of it.  In fact, someday it WILL happen, it's inevitable.  Only the specific date is uncertain.  Any of us can die at any time.  It will happen to me, and it will happen to you.

So...have you made plans for it?  Any lawyer can help you draw up a will, or you can even do one yourself that will (probably) hold up in court, using the helpful resources of the Internet.  You should do that, and you should also write down a list of all your bank accounts, investments, credit cards, pension plans, mortgages and debts, insurance policies and last year's tax returns.  YOU know how to find all this stuff, maybe with a little digging through the files.  But will your heirs know?  Write it down!!  Current contact information for all your relatives and close friends will be a big help to them, too.

But planning for what will happen to your virtual life when your real one ends presents some unusual challenges.

Linden Lab will do nothing with your account, until one of two things occurs:
  1. Your payment method becomes invalid through expiration or cacellation, and they can't collect your tier and other bills.  Then they will simply terminate your account and confiscate your land.  
  2. They are contacted, in writing, by your executor who proves she is authorized to settle your estate with copies of your death certificate and her power of attorney.
Here's what I recommend:  Talk to someone you know in Real Life who understands Second Life and how it works, or at least understands computers and the internet.  This could be your computer-savvy teenager, your spouse, or a close and trusted friend.  Tell them where they can find your Final Instructions.

Then write down those final instructions, and store them somewhere safe.  Include your account names and passwords, your payment method and the password or PIN number for it.  State what you want done with your land and your transferable inventory, which of your friends you want notified, and so on.  If your Trusted Person is unfamiliar with SL, either include links to guides for the newcomer such as Linden Lab's "Quick Start Guide" or the name of a helpful friend in world.

Be sure and review your Final Plans, both RL and SL, at least once a year and update them as needed.

Maybe you have, shall we say, a tricky personal situation...your wife is your executor in Real Life, and you have a Second Life partner too...that you never got around to telling your wife about.  I will leave how to plan for your demise in this scenario as an exercise for the student.  But you know what?  Maybe you should just let LL terminate your account.

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