What is Digital Estate Planning and Why Do I Need it?

About backups, 101

The plan now is not to have a full backup of your videos, texts, pictures, and the rest. Data loss is a thing, but the transfer of these data is a complete another.

The aim is not to be sure to leave a clean hard drive behind you, it’s more to be sure that your beloved ones will have access to whatever you were working on, or playing with.

The difference is crucial when for example talking about pictures. I don’t have anymore a single backup with all of my pictures (and I know it’s bad). However, I’d love to be sure that chosen bits in the clouds will be accessible by the persons I want to give to.

 

Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

Expert knowledge, 101

Who said that knowledge is gold?

Considering the time you spend online, it appears that you are building a digital wealth. For example, on services like Quora or StackOverflow, you are truly building a online expert, who can be recognized by thousands of followers and build strong relationship with some.

Contributing to coding projects, as your GitHub account enables you to do, also makes you an expert in a field where only a few people are experts. Consider the code you might have left on GitHub. Do you want it to be part of your online estate?

In all these case, you have been building an identity that made you a reference as well as a network of relationships. You’ll have to spend some time to think about the becoming of these assets after your departure. Do you want to close the accounts, erase your information, or let it be for some time accessible to everyone looking for knowledge?

You’ll have to be sure to write clear instruction the the becoming of your social network accounts. They can be deleted, left as a memorial, or curated : it’s up to you.

Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

Revenues generating online operations

Like some, you may also have a side project (or a few) which you have built over time, and that provide you with some cash. Online advertising, tools, online services, selling documents, … are a few projects that you will have to consider. If you’re not here to take care of them, who should? Do you want someone to take over — or to close the activity? The question of an ebook is another example. If you have an ebook sold on Amazon, your heirs are supposed to receive the intellectual property rights.

eBay stores an be an other issue. eBay will close any store on demand and reception of a proof of death, but in the meanwhile, all the trading comments, feedback and partners can be lost. In a market where trust is gold, it can be threatening for an online business.

Another issue can also be domain names. Today, some domain names can sell for tens of thousands of dollars apiece and represent a part of the online business. But holding such a name is similar to a lease: if you fail to renew it on time, competition can seize it at a very low price. Think of it carefully, as they are businesses : and most businesses have been transmitted in legacies for centuries!

 

Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

Professional data, 101

If you are an employee, chances are that your company does have some solution to access your mails, projects correspondence, etc, so it’s not a huge problem for you there. Concerning online freelancers, you may have money left on freelancer websites,

projects ongoing, with customers waiting. It could be a good idea to leave an access and appropriate instructions to these resources to make sure that everything can be closed properly.

Business owners also have responsibilities there. Of course, online financial assets have to be considered, but you will have to list account management tools, project management websites, advertising contracts… How can one be sure that the business can still be done if some people are not granted access? There, you can still prepare documents listing the business online account, latest business plans/business models, instructions for your staff.

A common example is the case of invoices and clients records being stored on a password protected medium. In this situation, it is quite difficult to settle business affairs without using a “digital forensic” or a hacker.