I know, morbid, right? This thought isn't completely out of the blue. I first started thinking about it when I heard about a situation where the parents of a man who had died unexpectedly sued the wife for taking down his facebook page, which they considered community property after his death. She didn't like having the reminder there, but his parents found some kind of solace by having access to his photos and status updates online.
On a personal level, the Facebook pages of the few people I know who have died since the explosion of social media remain intact and a place where people frequently submit personal messages of peace and hope, especially around the holidays and their birthday. I guess it's not much different than lighting a candle and saying a prayer, except this form of communicating with the dead is viewable to all who have access to the person's Wall (which if they did not properly set their privacy settings before dying could be anyone and everyone).
So, that's what happens with Facebook...what about your e-mail accounts? Would you want a loved one to have access to your email files? Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail all will send a family member a CD of your email folders as long as you provide them with the required information (death certificate, power of attorney and such). Similarly, Twitter will provide an archive of a deceased person's tweets to credible requests. I don't know about you, but I am taking mental inventory now of what's in my email folders. Anything I should delete before anything unfortunate happens?
Technology tends to progress faster than we can plan for the ramifications and consequences of having such open access to people and information. Now, we are seeing companies like Legacy Locker who will store your "digital legacy" in a secure place to be passed on per your wishes in the event of your death (for a fee, naturally). Having contingency plans added to your will for the digital content you leave behind surely isn't so uncommon these days too.
When I went to my Grandmother's house after she passed away last year, I was so moved by the many Valentine's Day Cards, anniversary cards, Christmas cards and birthday cards between my grandmother and grandfather exchanged between the 40s-70s. The cards were so beautiful, and the messages, even when brief, so touching. I never knew my grandfather and felt like these cards were a little window to his character. Would my grandchildren get the same joy over seeing the first tentative e-mails sent between me and their grandfather? Or the sweet love letters in electronic form that have taken the place of traditional letter writing?