E-MAIL: VOICE FROM THE GRAVE

Always wanted the last word? Now you can have it--from six feet under. LastWishes.com, a Dallas-based Web site, allows customers to create a list of people who will receive personalized messages, photos and videos via e-mail upon the subscriber's death. In its first year of service, it has attracted more than 12,000 customers--only a handful of whom have had cause to use the service. Site developers Jonathan Yeo and Simon Shurmer devised the system after a friend of Yeo's passed away. The friend's family grieved while also searching for the deceased's bank-account number and life-insurance policy. "He used Microsoft Money for all his finances, but no one knew his password," Yeo says. "I thought there must be a better way to do this." For a lifetime membership of $99, members store (among other things) their passwords, banking details and an electronic will.

Leaving behind essential information is popular, but Yeo says sending e-mails from the beyond draws the most customers. Members leave instructions on how to care for their surviving pets, provide a guest list for their funeral, post daily diary entries of their final days and reveal lifelong secrets (like that hidden Swiss bank account). Posthumous acts of kindness become easier, too. As one of the site's demo messages reads: "Eric, I have $200 hidden in my brown shoes in my wardrobe. Go get it--it's yours. Best regards, me."

What remains to be seen is whether LastWishes.com can escape the fate of rival service Mylastemail.com, which launched last November and bit the dust this summer. Last Wishes' official motto knows survival isn't certain: "The only two sure things in life are death and taxes."