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GoodTrust: Navigating the Digital Legacy Landscape

October 2, 2020
Company News

The founder of GoodTrust Rikard Steiber found out how difficult it can be to manage someone’s estate after friends died during the pandemic. He witnessed the family members struggle to complete tasks such as closing social media accounts, securing photos, and dealing with financial services accounts. This was the main reason why he decided to start a GoodTrust - a digital legacy management company that can handle your digital affairs after you die. That might sound pretty dark, but since we’re all going to die someday, we probably don’t want to leave our family and loved ones with a big mess to fix.

It’s actually pretty difficult to locate all the digital accounts and then also to close them down or actually extract content or money from them. If you think about all your emails, documents, subscription services, your banks, your insurance, your social media — that’s a lot of digital stuff, which means that if someone dies and hasn’t thought about it, you’re not going to be able to access most of these things.

Some of the tasks that GoodTrust can take care of include: setting up a memorial page on your Facebook account; stopping subscriptions that charge you monthly fees, like Netflix and Spotify; and closing down accounts that are no longer needed, such as LinkedIn or Instagram. It can also discreetly close accounts that you might never want to be discovered. And it can rescue the family photos and videos you want to be saved for posterity.

What makes GoodTrust different?

Compared to other similar services, GoodTrust handles all of the legal, financial, and emotional legacies heirs typically have to deal with. GoodTrust plans start at $40, and the service can lockdown more than 100 sites. In more expensive plans, it can even get court orders to gain access to accounts that require such measures. The company can also handle Facebook memorialization for first responders and their families at no cost. In a 2020 survey, GoodTrust found 90% of U.S. adults do not know what happens to their digital assets (emails, photos, social media, online banking, sites/passwords) when they die, and 84% said they would use a secure online service to transition those assets when they die.

150,000 people die every day globally and while each tragedy affects loved ones on a personal level, it also means the number of deceased people on the internet is growing rapidly.

Shuttering an account on someone else’s behalf is made more complicated by legal requirements that vary from site to site. Retrieving personal photos from a loved one’s account on Google, Apple, or Facebook requires expert legal knowledge and a court order. The companies aren’t trying to make a survivor’s life difficult but they simply can’t turn over an account to someone claiming to be a survivor when the “dead” person was still alive.

So why should you care about your digital assets after you die?

When your accounts lie idle, your information is at risk of being lost forever or even hacked, If you don’t do anything, then you can’t really control what’s being posted on Facebook such as some inappropriate pictures, or you get inappropriate birthday greetings, which no one really wants to receive after all of this.

This of course, becomes even more difficult when money is involved, such as a Coinbase account for cryptocurrency or a Robin Hood stock-trading account. Not only do you have to prove the owner has died, but you also have to prove you are the rightful heir which can get tricky.

The issue of trusting a company with secrets and passwords is a pretty big one. GoodTrust doesn’t need the deceased’s user password to memorialize Facebook, stop Netflix subscriptions, delete LinkedIn accounts, extract photos from Google Photos, and so on.

The way it works is that customers give GoodTrust power of attorney and all the documentation required by the websites. GoodTrust does not have access to customer accounts, nor does it see any of its content.

The company tries to handle a lot of this through automation but in some difficult cases, GoodTrust offers a “white glove service,” and the company will add more such services over time. Things like a password manager may capture all of your sites and passwords, but you probably don’t want to hand this over to someone else.

The best way to protect the digital identity of a deceased loved one is to take control of their digital accounts (or delete them), as this prevents hackers from taking over forgotten accounts or impersonating a user for scams.

The People Behind GoodTrust

GoodTrust’s founding team includes serial entrepreneur Markus Thorsveldt (chief technology officer), Olivia Gorajewski (chief operating officer), and Christian Lagerling (chief financial officer). Former Google employees include Scott Levitan and Daniel Sieberg. Advisers include Kallayil and Google ads research engineering VP Tony Fagan. Steiber was previously president of Viveport and senior vice president of virtual reality at HTC, which makes the Vive VR headsets.

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