This week, Social Media Club Sacramento will host a panel discussion about something that’s not as buzzworthy as “likes” or check-ins. The topic? Death.
Even though initiating the conversations can be uncomfortable, organizers say having an end-of-life plan for your digital assets is just as critical as deciding who gets the keys to your house after you die.
The panel discussion, “Digital death: Estate planning for your virtual assets when you die,” will be held 6:30 p.m. Thursday at The Urban Hive, 1931 H St. Cost is a $5 or $10 donation to Social Media Club Sacramento. Guests are encouraged to register in advance.
In addition to legal experts and a new media marketing consultant, Thursday’s panel includes Matt Lenzi, founder and CEO of heirVault. Founded last April, El Dorado Hills-based heirVault is an Internet service that helps people assess their level of estate and legacy planning readiness. Lenzi hopes to soon add online tools and resources to coach people through the end-of-life planning process.
He answered a few questions about estate planning for digital assets.
With the rise of technology, which new issues surround end-of-life planning?
“A lot of people seem to be overly focused on what happens to your social media accounts when you die, but that is really only a small part of the equation. Protecting your family from financial fraud, in the forms of identity theft and embezzlement, is probably a more important issue. Clearly explaining how to get to family photos, videos, important documents, your music/e-book/movie collections and your email accounts (is) also important to a lot of people.”
What’s the biggest mistake people make when it comes to protecting digital assets in the event of death?
“The biggest mistake people make when it comes to protecting digital assets is not documenting and communicating what digital assets they have, where they are and how to access them. Having a digital estate plan, or simply documenting your electronic devices, accounts and digital assets has only become important to the average person over the past 10 to 20 years.”
Facebook recently added an after-death feature, allowing users to designate a “legacy contact” who can manage their account if they die. Do you think this will encourage people to discuss end-of-life issues at an earlier age?
“Facebook’s ‘legacy contact’ option will certainly set the table for those conversations to happen. Whether it encourages more people to fully plan their financial and digital estates earlier is still to be seen. Although heirVault is trying very hard to change the perception of planning for death, the concept of dying is still very hard for most people to address head-on.”
What challenges come with being a business tied so heavily to death?
“Death is not a popular topic for a multitude of reasons. Fear, depression, superstition and a tomorrow mentality all contribute to people’s avoidance of planning ahead. A major part of the reason I became interested in helping people address end of life planning is because it it is a very real and interesting problem to try and solve.
Our ultimate goal is to make the effort approachable, lighthearted and motivating. I have become really good at initiating productive discussions with people face to face, but converting that to an online service is the challenge we are working everyday to conquer.”