Is Your Digital Life Ready for Your Death?

Your cyberfootprint

Neil Armstrong may have been imprinting the moon with a famous step, but you are creating everyday a series of footsteps that may live forever — or at least long enough to bother you. You know, your cyber footprint.

The websites that you browse, the emails you sent, receive and forward, the status updates on social networks, the movies you mention having appreciated, even the points your are collecting on online games, .. the list would be long enough.

When speaking of legacy, this footprint often becomes a problem to manage for those who remain. What will become of it? Who can benefit from the online revenue generating you have been generating? Who will pursue the work you had started? What will become of those embarrassing mails you had sent previously?

Previously, people had wills written for their earthly possessions. Your books, photos, all the small souvenirs that you shared with loved ones could be shared with the ones you wanted. But what about your cyber footprint? All of your assets, or most of them, are locked with a password, and services providers don’t usually pass your digital belongings to any other than you.

The traditional things we have done for estate planning—proof of death, changing titles, all those sorts of things—may need to change in this new context of digital assets,” says Dennis Kennedy, a St. Louis, Missouri, technology attorney who is also a recognized expert on how technology intersects with the law. “One of the last questions you tend to ask is, ‘What happens when somebody dies?’ Nobody is planning to die. Very few people want to think about that and what is going to happen to their stuff, but it has to be done, and it has gotten more complicated with the addition of digital assets.

That’s why it’s always interesting to have a guide to help you through your issues.

Who will get your iTunes when you die?

A shift in legacies

The so called GenY has been growing in a different age than their parents. The digital realm has taken over some aspects in everyday life, and that’s something we will have to live with.

We previously  had photo albums, scrapbooks, handwritten journals and letters, pieces of ribbon and shoeboxes to rule them all. If you wanted to get back in time, you just had to open these shoeboxes, carefully hidden in the basement or stored in the closet behind a pile of blankets.

Today, we do have dvd of photos, social media accounts, Facebook statuses and emails ; even the diplomas you are getting from your online courses are PDFs, not pieces of paper framed and proudly displayed behind your desk.  Cyberspace is getting a hold on these precious memories. And that may be an issue in terms of memories and privacy.

Most of our online accounts are locked behind passwords, and without proper guidance, memories may arise once again when you would have liked them to disappear, or those precious memories, photos or videos that you had with a love one may be deleted from cyberspace. That’s why you should take action right now, read more on the howtos, and prepare a list of your legacy, with proper instructions and beneficiaries !

Digital death is still a problem. A widow’s battle to access her husband’s Apple account

Designated Beneficiaries – 201

After having set up a complete digital will, and chosen an executor, you can set another level of security to your setup, it’s by including designated beneficiaries.

What are they? Check out the for-dummies, but what you need to know is that you communicate the details of beneficiaries to the institutions you want to warn (banks for example?) so that they will automatically transfer ownership of your assets to a designated beneficiary upon reception of proof of death.

Digital planning
Digital planning

Why are they important? Conflicts. If information between your will and the institution differ, the bank will prevail. It means your will can not be sufficient to ensure the proper transfer of ownership of funds in all the cases.. you catch my drift.

 

Identity Theft Safeguard

Justin digital legacy

It is a proud moment for most parents when their son or daughter decides to join the marines and represent their country. This is no different for the family of Justin Ellsworth. Unfortunately the price of being a marine can be life threatening and in November 2004 Justin Ellsworth’s family got to experience a tragedy like no other when their son was reported dead. At the age of 20 their son Justin had been killed in a roadside blast while trying to assist local civilians.

As you could imagine this would be a huge loss for any family accompanied by much anguish. Regrettably the family of Justin Ellsworth would be haunted and reminded every day that their beloved family member was gone. This was mediated with the fact that Yahoo would not release Justin is emails to his family. To protect their users and themselves from being sued Yahoo has made it almost impossible for anyone outside of the account holder to gain access to an email address. So when Justin had passed away his family pleas to get to read his last words were in vain. Yahoo would not budge about their privacy policy.

The family of Justin knew that they had legal ground to collect their fallen family member is emails and decided to take their fights to the legal system. For the next two years the family of Justin and Yahoo battled on and off in court. During proceedings both sides holding on to their stance about what should happen to the emails of the deceased soldier with no settlements looming.

In April 2005, nearly two years after Justin had passed the judge had made a verdict. The judge had decided Yahoo had no legal grounds to hold Justin is emails from their family as they were the next in line to control it. Soon after the judge signed off on papers declaring Justin is email estate be signed off to his family immediately. This is something Yahoo did not try to appeal. Finally Justin is family had access to his emails but, not only did they have access, they had closure.

It just goes to show you that if you want your loved ones to gain access to your digital legacy then you must give them access before you die. Whether you leave your passwords in a will or you share it with someone close to you for safe keeping. Concluding remember, you are ultimately responsible for your digital legacy unless you want to let your family and loved ones fight for control!