Challenges Facing Your Digital Estate

Since 2003, we have seen a significant shift in how our information is stored, delivered, and used.  In the past I used to advise clients to look in the mailbox for bills and statements to locate the assets of a deceased loved one. Now, in 2016, the mailbox is electronic and the bills, statements, and other notifications are getting to be all digital. We are seeing our lives transitioning to the internet “cloud” every day.  Regardless of how much we like it, or how comfortable we are with it, our lives tomorrow will be different that they are today.

This evolution in how we do what we do is causing, for some of us, a disconnect in how we see our world.  What used to be obvious is now more subtle; what used to be challenging is now easier.  And because of these changes, we take so much more for granted. Those pictures taken of uncle bob and his kids on Instagram; the documents received from a colleague stored on Dropbox; the credit card bill from Netflix; the invoice of your personal items from Amazon; the profile of you on LinkedIn; remember that payment via bitcoin or PayPal?; and don’t forget your timeline on Facebook. The technological changes we have been experiencing have enabled us to leave an imprint of our lives online in so many ways.  And whilst this is nice and it certainly is easy, the question that few are looking at is what happens to these digital ghosts of our lives after we have passed away?

Last year, in 2015, there were approximately 83 million Americans who had atleast one of their online accounts hacked if we look at just the top four hacks of the year[1]. About 80%[2] of all people who pass away in the United States have online accounts of one sort. As time goes on, that number will only increase, as the Gallup pollclearly shows. Of course, the more we go online, the greater the threats from hacks, ID theft, misappropriation of information, and con-artists absconding with ill-gotten funds. One personal anecdote I can share is that of a childhood friend of mine who passed away leaving behind an infant daughter. A miscreant posted on her Facebook page a link to have the friends and family donate money for a “charity” for the benefit of the child. After a time, those funds were collected and the person disappeared into the ether. This is just one case of many where people are abused during a time of emotional stress.

Several challenges face those survivors acting as representatives of the deceased when it comes to closing or accessing the still active accounts of the deceased. First, identifying the active accounts may be an issue if no inventory is left in place. Second, the representative has to have the time to navigate the web sites of these accounts to even determine who to contact or what form to complete so that the account can be closed. Sometimes these accounts may need to be accessed rather than closed, and that’s another significant matter that will be discussed below. Third, not every online account will require the same information to close such the account. For example, while Facebook may simply require proof that the person seeking to close an account is an immediate family member, LinkedIn requires the member’s name, your relationship to them, the company they worked for, a link to the profile, and the member’s email address; just to cite two examples.

As the internet ages with us, a critical mass is developing in the legal community and state legislatures to better help the representatives of the deceased to handle these online accounts. A national framework called the Revised Uniform Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADDA) has been drafted to enable access and closure to these accounts. The difficult path that lies ahead is in having all states enact laws within their own legislatures that will ratify the RUFADDA. At present about 54%[1] of the states have begun the process of introducing legislation dealing with this. Florida is set to put into law it’s version this July. We can’t forget though that while the United States created the internet, it is worldwide, as are people’s accounts. So while our nation is slowly making strides, many online providers have no process or legal structures in place to allow for the living to handle their loved one’s accounts.

Further, and as I alluded to earlier, there is a bright line that cannot be crossed when dealing with the accounts. Accessing an account requires prior consent from the account owner. When was the last time you completed a form allowing your representative to access your email account.  Most likely, the answer is “never.” Here, the Stored Communications Act (SCA) and the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (FCFAA), actively prevent any unauthorized person from accessing such accounts. Doing so opens the door for civil and criminal penalties against the online account provider and yourself, if you were to access your loved one’s email, for example.

When examining the upcoming legal structure of the states’ work, it is very important to understand that the deceased’s digital assets are exactly that – assets. They must be dealt with in the same way a person’s other assets are handled, and that is by using a durable power of attorney or guardianship while a person is alive, but incapacitated, and through a person’s Last  Will or Trust when deceased. This will necessitate a court supervised administration of the estate to deal with the digital estate even if a person had no others financial assets to speak of.

There are things that can be done. First and foremost, speak to an attorney who is versed in digital estate management and who has the understanding and capability to ensure your legal estate documents are up to the future task of providing the prior consent required. Next, work with certain online companies like EstatePass.com to safeguard your information while living and will ensure your and your future representative’s legal rights are protected by having the prior consent on file, or if dealing with the accounts of a deceased loved one, EstatePass.com will provide a simple online tool to help you close the necessary accounts. Remember: simply having a list of accounts and passwords does not protect your rights or give a representative the authority to access these accounts.

[1] Vtech – 5M, 11/2015; Ashley Madison – 37M, 8/15; Office of Personnel Management – 22M, 7/15; Anthem – 18.8M 2/15

[2] http://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2014/acs/acs-28.pdf

[3] Who Will Delete You? Fiduciary Access to Digital Asset, ActionLine Vol. XXXVII, No. 2 (Winter 2015)

Connecting generations of family and friends, so that our most precious memories and experiences may be preserved perpetually

“All living things seek to perpetuate themselves into the future, but humans seek to perpetuate themselves forever. This seeking – this will to ‘immortality’ – is the foundation of human achievement; it is the wellspring of religion, the muse of philosophy, the architect of our cities and the impulse behind the arts. It is embedded in our very nature”

– Stephen Cave

So if it is embedded in our nature, what potential do we have to perpetuate ourselves as humans in the 21st century?

In 2011 Russian entrepreneur Dmitry Itskov employed leading Russian specialists in the field of neural interfaces, robotics, artificial organs and systems, proposing the transfer of personality to an advanced non-biological carrier at the end of an individual’s natural lifetime. The ultimate objective of this project is the development of a hologram-like avatar with an artificial brain to which human personality is transferred.

Whilst many remain sceptical, and are concerned by the ethical implications of such technological developments, our physical presence in this world remains limited, for the time being, and is set to remain indefinitely so.

This is why the emergence of online digital legacy tools, that provide us with the opportunity to record our lives online and leave an everlasting legacy, provide a meaningful solution to the aforementioned conundrum concerning ‘immortality’.

Such tools have the potential to capture every aspect of our lives, enabling future generations to obtain a complete understanding of who we truly are; including what we achieved, the values we upheld, the causes we represented, and what we held dearest during our time on this earth.

Loggacy is one such digital legacy tool; founded with the intention of connecting generations of family and friends, so that our most precious memories and experiences may be preserved perpetually.

Loggacy was very much born from a personal desire to never be forgotten, as I find it a sad reality that I am only able to remember my ancestors through snippets of physical information, such as photographs or writings that were supplemented by short narratives from living relatives. I hope that my vision now means that when I pass this won’t be the case, and that my children, grandchildren and beyond will be able to learn about everything that I embodied throughout the course of my lifetime.

I contend that this feeling extends well beyond myself, and indeed, I believe that there is an innate human desire within us all to create a personal narrative, to leave something behind, to pass something on and make a mark on this world; which is as much future-oriented as it is an immersion in the past.

As such I created a platform that is available for all to use; because it is a fundamental right to be remembered, to achieve some form of immortality.

The beauty of the tool is that the account provided by Loggacy is yours to control, manage and share; and therefore you determine exactly what people learn about you and what they are subsequently able to remember you by. Whether it be detailing a romantic getaway, your wedding or your child’s first steps, Loggacy welcomes you to create a log documenting your life from birth through to the present day and share it only with those most precious to you.

Many of us make plans for end of life, whether it be in the form of a funeral or pension plan, but little emphasis is currently placed on how we may utilise technology to record our lives, and as such, preserve our legacies. I intend to change this through the creation of a safe, secure and intuitive platform that allows users to record the most poignant moments of their life; so that future generations may truly know and understand their heritage.

Regardless of how seemingly menial our personal stories or achievements may appear to us on an individual level, we all have memories and experiences that are of interest to others and it’s important that these endure.

I therefore encourage you to consider what you might want your legacy to be, and record it with Loggacy; so that we may all stand the test of time, and satisfy man kinds perennial quest for immortality…

You can now send messages to your family and friends after you have died

Secure Your Digital Legacy with MyInformationVault

A loss of a loved one due to a terminal illness or sudden demise ignites financial and business mayhem and creates a crisis for entire families. In addition, the lack of information on the family financials and important documents further adds to the hardship. Years later families receive mail from financial institutions regarding fixed deposits, investment in stocks & bonds about which they had no prior knowledge or information. Having gone through the pain and agony of trying to find out the information after the loss of his father and with his in-depth technology experience, our founder set out to fix this problem and MyInformationVault was born. MyInformationVault allows users to securely store their important financial and other essential information, which needs to be passed on after their death or incapacitation. Users have peace of mind knowing that chosen recipients will only be given the information that is specified for them promptly after the user’s death certificate is verified. Planning for the financial and general well-being of your family after you pass away has entered into the digital age, and in conjunction with MyInformationVault’s easy to use service, here are a few other very important steps which need to be taken; estate planning, wills, and trusts.

Estate planning is important and can help prevent a lot of burden after the loss of a loved one. When understanding estate planning, the most important question is why create a trust? Over time, people have used trusts as a way of mitigating taxes which would otherwise be payable. There are four types of tax that can affect you and your estate. There is corporation, capital gains, inheritance, & income tax. This is why estate planning is so important.  Believe it or not everyone has an estate no matter how large or small it may be. Your estate consists of things such as you car, home, bank accounts, life insurance policies, & personal possessions. Many individuals put off estate planning because they think that they do not own enough, they are not old enough, they are confused and they don’t know who can help them, or they just do not want to think about it.  The point is you do not want to your family to be left in a difficult situation when losing a loved one. Emotionally it is a difficult time, and by limiting the amount of informational gaps, you can help make the process a lot smoother for you and your family. Benefits to estate planning include tax purposes, proper instructions for the dispersion of your assets, and peace of mind.

Estate plans begin with either a will or a trust. As mentioned, we are here to bring you clarity to this topic and help you understand that estate planning is not as complicated as most believe. A will provides instructions but involves probate. Probate varies from state to state, but a will must go through the state’s probate process before it can be distributed to heirs.  Your executor must find, secure, and manage your assets during the probate process, which can range from a few months to over a year. Depending on the contents of your will and on the amount of your debts, the executor may have to decide whether or not to sell your real estate, securities, or other assets. A will can become expensive and bring vast amounts of legal, executor, and court fees. When creating a will, you must know that the court controls the process, not your family. Most families prefer a trust because you can avoid probate at death especially if there is property owned in other states.

Unlike a will, a trust does not end when you pass away. Assets can stay in the trust until your beneficiaries reach a certain age to inherit.  Your trust can continue longer to provide for a loved one with special needs, or to protect the assets from beneficiaries’ creditors, spouses, and irresponsible spending. Although living trusts are more expensive than wills, you are able to avoid the court fees, which make them a better option.

Have you ever wondered what happens to your Facebook account or social media when you pass away?  Due to this huge wave in social media and technology, it has become more common for all of us to have digital assets, and it’s important they are included in your estate planning. An average person has roughly $35,000 worth of assets stored on digital devices. These assets are at risk of being lost forever when the owner dies. Why not pass them on to your loved ones? Due to this recent concern many companies have put into effect, more customer friendly laws to help aid this issue. Ways that you can help is to take digital inventory; gather your passwords, and be specific when completing your power attorney. Authorize someone you trust to deal with your digital assets and online accounts. When estate planning, remember to realize that it does not matter how much or how little it is, it’s still important to be prepared.

We would invite you to visit www.MyInformationVault.com to try our free 14 day trial. With MyInformationVault you will be able designate WHO will receive your information WHEN they need it the most. Upload all of your important information for organization and dissemination. Don’t wait and plan ahead give you and immortalize your information…

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

The Missing Piece to the Financial Puzzle

Most financial professionals specialize in financial, retirement, insurance, and estate planning. In doing so, they usually utilize a holistic planning process designed to review and optimize all areas of a client’s financial needs. However, studies reveal that most “successful” financial professionals choose to specialize in a particular niche. In other words, they focus the majority of time, energy, and resources at a target market — with the goal of establishing themselves as the “go-to” expert for a particular product or service.

Some of the most common niches in our industry are:

  • Wealth and investment management
  • Life, disability, and/or long-term care insurance
  • Retirement planning
  • Estate and legacy planning

Your End of Life Planning Niche is Here

Question: “Have you adequately prepared yourself and your family for your eventual death?” This may be an unpleasant question, but nonetheless it is one you should be able to answer. The reason why is because one day we will all die. Death is something we cannot predict, postpone, or avoid. I once heard someone say; “God promises us eternity, but He never promises us tomorrow”. Every financial services professional knows for certain their clients are guaranteed to face this extremely difficult situation, either directly or indirectly, at some point in their future. We also know this guaranteed event is accompanied by extremely difficult emotional and financial decisions.

However, almost nobody we know can answer this question: “If a death had occurred in your family last night… what would you be doing right now?” Every financial professional has a unique opportunity right now to serve an exponentially growing niche of individuals and families. Every day there are families who are seeking the professional services and guidance you can potentially offer. And by doing so, you can serve a niche that has little to no competition. This unique opportunity will add value to clients and practice, and allow you become the credible “go-to” professional that so many families are searching for. The bad news is our industry has yet to offer the comprehensive training and education needed to become more comfortable, confident, and better equipped to professionally serve “the death conversation”. The good news is I am fully confident this will change in the coming years. Soon financial professionals will open up a world of opportunity as they gain access to the necessary training, tools and resources to help them step out of their comfort zone — and step into a new niche to serve more clients.

“The Death Conversation” is a Good Thing

A recent survey from The Washington Post revealed that more than 90% of people believe it is a good idea to have “the death conversation”, and also believe it is a good idea to document their final plans and preferences in advance. However, less than 10% have actually had “the death conversation”, much less proactively started making any formalized End of Life Plan.

Talking About Death is Taking Flight

Mark my words. In the coming years “the death conversation” will be a standard and routine part of our job and our industry. In fact, just over the past several years I have watched death talk grow into a much more common and acceptable topic. Below are a few examples to support this explosive trend:

  • The Social Security Administration is increasingly educating Americans and seniors about pre-planning and pre-funding funeral arrangements. • Most long-term care facilities require advanced funeral and cemetery arrangements before allowing admission.
  • Death Cafés and Death Dinner Parties are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. and other countries.

So when you factor in the aging population of Baby Boomers, the advent of the Internet and the explosion in technology, the trend of talking about death is in the early stages of exponential growth curve.

Are You a “Death Planner”?

Most Funeral Directors will readily accept and acknowledge the fact that they are “death planners”. On the contrary, most financial professionals would cringe at the thought of being referred to as a “death planner”. But like it or not, many financial professionals are “death planners”.

Some of the most common “death planning” products and strategies in the financial services industry are life insurance, long-term care, and estate planning. Life insurance is a product primarily designed to replace income in the event of an unexpected death. Long-term care insurance is a product primarily designed to help fund a person’s medical and nonmedical needs for an extended period of time prior to death. Estate planning is a strategy primarily designed to provide the proper and timely distribution of personal and/or family wealth upon death.

When a financial services professional sells a term, whole life, or long-term care insurance policy — or an Estate Attorney creates a Traditional Will or Living Trust — the harsh reality is they are “death planners”. In other words, the value offered from their professional products and services is accomplished by putting a plan in place for death. The primary objective of these “death plans” is to minimize the significant emotional and financial damages and losses associated with death. So like it or not, many financial professionals are actually “death planners”.

 It’s Only Too Soon…Until It’s Too Late

As you know by now I firmly believe the financial services industry needs to help us become trained, educated, and well-versed to assist our clients regarding the following four facts:

  1. Death is a guaranteed event which we cannot predict, avoid, or postpone.
  2. When a death occurs, there are approximately 150 difficult decisions that need to be made within a 24-48 hour period.
  3. Dying is expensive, and these costs will only grow over time. The average cost of a traditional funeral today is $15,000- $20,000.
  4. When faced with planning a funeral, most families are largely unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and unprepared.

Clearly this is not a good scenario for someone to make important emotional and financial decisions. I cannot stress enough how important it is for every financial professional to begin to accept death, embrace “the death conversation”, and start adding this unique and growing niche — all of which are guaranteed to help your clients and their families make a difficult situation easier. It is time for change in our industry, and my prayer is that I help make a small contribution towards something that is so large and important.

I leave you with this important parting thought. The most common statement I hear when it comes to End of Life Planning is; “I don’t need to do this now. It’s too soon.” Well, I can assure you from my own personal experience and years of extensive work in the death care industry, it’s only too soon — until it’s too late.

Read more at : http://www.funeralresources.com/end-of-life/preplan-a-funeral/

Learn How to Preserve Your Data with Take Control of Your Digital Legacy

Wanna write a guest post ?

At DigitalDeathGuide, we’re trying to curate all of information related to death management and assets planning in the electronic sphere.

We’re selecting articles from all over the web, but we’re also looking to promote and support activities related to this field as well. Publishing guest posts is one one these supports: with guests posts we can :

  • Present yourself, with a photo and a short pic,
  • Showcase your ideas,
  • Develop your activities online by explaining your expertise, and giving your contact information.

A successfull post is one like this. Ping me on Eleanore @ digitaldeathguide.com if you’d like to show your work !