Every day we add to our Digital Legacy. We add online bank accounts, investment accounts and access to other financial accounts and information. We add our words to our posts and blogs, we add photographs to our social media sites and accounts, and we have many social interactions online through sites such as some of my favorites LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, WordPress, Blogster, Flickr, Google+, Meetup, Skype, Dropbox, etc.
A big question is what will happen or what should we do so that our Digital Legacy is managed by our estate trustee or someone at least when we pass on. We want our pictures and profiles to be deleted from many if not all of these, for example Facebook, do you want your page to remain up? Also, your pictures and other content will be at their disposal possibly forever.
There may be other problems that come up with assets if they represent intellectual property, which are creations of the mind to which exclusive rights are usually held. These can be copyrights, patents, trademarks, etc. and may be in the form of words, phrases, designs, musical or literary works, inventions and so on.
Consideration must also be given to privacy violation. Giving just anyone access to a deceased person’s online information where personal and sensitive information need to be handled cautiously is important. Violations include being negligent: in the protection of private information that could lead to data breaches, data theft, unauthorized transmittal or sale of personal information, and illegal data collection by others.
Another challenge comes with the abundance of digital data. The average person has more than ten online accounts and this does not take into account the data stored on their mobile phones, tablets, PCs, netbooks, the cloud, etc.
The process and ability to deal with these data or digital assets mean decisions and arrangements need to be made now.
First of all it is important to create a list of your information such as your usernames and passwords to your devices, website links, email accounts, online subscriptions, software, financial accounts, etc. Find a way to do this, whether it is as simple as having an Excel or Word file that you can ‘password lock’ on your PC with www.website1.com, username = Onlinepage1, password = password1. This is then only one password that you should provide to your estate trustee.
Even with this information there may be more work to be done, for example, to close your account on Twitter: ‘In the event of the death of a Twitter user, we can work with a person authorized to act on the behalf of the estate or with a verified immediate family member of the deceased to have an account deactivated.’ Your estate trustee will need the deceased person’s username, government issued ID, death certificate, some personal information and a signed statement to begin with.
A really good idea is that you can make this a digital will by providing instructions for what you want your estate trustee to do with them. What information you want to keep and what you want deleted, if you want profiles changed to ‘Memorial Pages’, etc. There are also other evolving options that you can research or ask us.
You need these instructions and information to be available to your estate trustee who should be tech savvy or know someone they can trust and monitor to carry out your instructions. They can be included in your Will or provided with your Will and other estate documents. It is a good idea to print a copy and keep them in a safe place with these other documents.
So start cleaning up your digital existence by deleting obsolete profiles and subscriptions, digital information you may not want anyone to see and get to work on your ‘Digital Legacy’ planning and preparation.
Then see your Estate Planner before having a lawyer draft your estate documents.