The Internet has made it easier to plan everything from travel and weddings to careers. Now it is helping people prepare for what they may be the most reluctant to face: death.
Yahoo Japan Corp. this week launched the service Yahoo Ending (ending.yahoo.co.jp), a portal on its search-engine page that addresses the inevitable. In addition to deactivating the user’s Yahoo account upon death, it can estimate the cost of a funeral, prepare a will and even find a cemetery.
Yahoo Japan sees an opportunity in “shukatsu,” or end-of-life preparations, as the elderly make up a growing percentage of the population.
For a monthly cost of ¥180, plus tax, a prepared email is sent out upon a registered user’s death to as many as 200 preregistered addresses, and a bulletin board opens allowing relatives and friends to leave farewell messages and offer condolences, as “proof that you existed after you depart,” the company says.
The service also addresses a problem for Web services such as blogs and social-networking sites: what to do with the account of the deceased. Left active, loved ones can be billed for services that are no longer required.
Once a user’s death is confirmed, Yahoo Ending can shut down his or her account on Yahoo Japan, delete images, videos, documents and other files stored on the site, and cancel paid membership or subscription services.
“Data of dead people left indefinitely on Web services is a common problem for many companies,” said Megumi Nakashima, a Yahoo Japan spokeswoman. “Yahoo Ending is the first system designed to address this specific problem.”
The quickest and most reliable method to confirm a death is to submit a government-issued cremation certificate, the company says.
Yahoo Japan plans to expand the service by teaming up with other providers.
“For example, we are thinking of partnering with credit card companies so that the user can configure Yahoo Ending to tell such companies to close out the user’s account,” she said.
Yahoo Ending also addresses some practicalities of the material world, such as allowing a user to calculate funeral costs by location and number of mourners. The results are based on a November 2013 survey, by partner Kamakura Shinsho Ltd., of people who paid for funerals in the past two years. The calculator can also figure in option costs such as the cosmetics for the face of the deceased and gifts, as well as fees for the caterer or Buddhist monks who may be conducting the ceremony.
For example, a funeral held in Minato Ward, Tokyo, attended by 31 to 70 people including 20 relatives is estimated to cost ¥985,200. The total includes gifts for guests, and catered food. Adding in monks raises the cost by ¥150,000.
Other services, which are available from similar online providers, include reserving a mortuary, a grave search engine, online resources on inheritance and referrals to inheritance tax professionals.
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