The democratization of the internet has created some pockets of money online. Let’s talk about Bitcoins. This decentralized digital currency started in 2009 and is the most used parallel currency as for today — for the rate of $13 per bitcoin. It means that you can have a wallet full of virtual currency, that you can cash for “regular” money ! Another example is your account on Amazon. If you have money left on your account thanks to coupons, redeeming codes, or transfers, you may also want to have this amount transferred to your direct heirs. Finally, you may also want to be sure that your executor can grant access to your online accounts for freelance websites where you online work was paid on specific websites, before any transfer to classical bank accounts.
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!
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.
- Why planning for a digital death?
- A topo of digital assets versus tangible assets
- Rights and licenses
- Disclaimer : what you won’t find here
II. Good practices
- Personal data
- Professional data
- Revenues generating online operations
- Online money
- Expert knowledge
- About backups.
- Online services
- Physical data
- Privacy management
III. Steps to follow: an audit
- 1. Do an online cartography
- 2. Remove what you don’t use
- 3. Cloud what you can
- 4. Update a password list
- 5. And do it regularly
IV. To be prepared if sh*t happen
- Prepare a will executor
- A trendy alternative
- Prepare a digital legacy locker
- Do you want a physical locker ?
- Prepare your data flows today
- Write out instructions for each package
- The Poor Man solution
- Get to know more
- Beware !
- Long live the King (or Queen)
- A service checklist
List of services // digital legacy tools
Death policies of your the different services you may use
Benjamin Stassen, like most young adults in their early 20s, had a FaceBook account and many others that he used online. As with all social media websites and websites in general Benjamin has usernames and passwords that kept others from accessing his accounts. Like everyone else, every time he used FaceBook (and other sites) he had to ‘sign-in’ in order to get into his account, and into his online life.
When Benjamin Stassen suddenly committed suicide in 2010 his distraught parents, hoping to gain some insight into why their beloved son had taken his own life, looked to his FaceBook and other social accounts for answers. They needed access to what is termed his ‘digital legacy’. What they got instead was a wall, unknowingly put up by Benjamin himself and guarded by ‘user agreements’, that made it extremely difficult to do that. In fact, it was almost impossible and has set off a debate about what constitutes ‘privacy’ after a loved one is deceased.
The Stassens eventually persuaded Google to give them access to their son’s email (through a court order) and FaceBook, grudgingly, followed suit but the problems they faced, and the concerns that their fight brought up, have shed light on an area of the internet that is still legally murky; who should get access to someone’s digital legacy in the event of their death and how can this be made legally possible?
It’s an important question to be sure. Many people have digital legacies that are quite extensive and even quite valuable. For example, what if a person has digital music that they have purchased and stored online in the cloud? Who has the right to this, and how does that person access it? Information, like that the Stassen’s were looking for, is the same and in some instances may be very important.
In the United Kingdom a study termed ‘Dying in a Digital Age’ found that although 4 out of 5 people have digital assets less than 10% of them have given any thought to how they will pass on these assets after they themselves pass on. Bank accounts, ISAs and online collections of digital art and music all have username and password protection but still very little in the way of protection for surviving family members.
The debate has just started and will get much more heated as more and more people pas that have digital legacies and no digital ‘last will and testament’ to say who gets access. Hopefully someday, when a solution is found, the light that was shed on this problem will have meant that Benjamin Stassen’s death was not completely in vain.