Digital Files After Death, What Happens to Your Digital Legacy?

What is the value of my twitter account?

Sometime back I was involved in an interesting discussion on LinkedIn regarding digital estate planning. An important point was raised regarding the value of digital assets such as Facebook and twitter accounts.

Many people do not consider their social media accounts as their assets. They think their account is is not worth anything. But the truth is that a twitter account with many ‘genuine’ followers or a Facebook page with many ‘authentic’ likes and followers are a good marketing platform for promoting causes.

There is a precious resource involved in building up these accounts or assets and this resource is ‘time’. In turn these assets have both ‘time’ and ‘money’ value attached to these assets. There are services such as http://whatsmytwitteraccountworth.com/ that can help you attach a $ value to the twitter account.

A twitter account with 10k  genuine followers is a big digital asset. These 10k followers did not happen overnight there was a lot of time and effort involved in getting those followers. This asset can be useful for any organisation or start up or even a charity to broadcast or advertise their message, idea or cause.

If we are spending so much time in creating these assets then why not we preserve or protect them like any other assets. If you have spent a lifetime building these assets why not transfer them afterlife for good cause. This is where PlannedDeparture can step in and help you in the creating a social media will and ensuring that your digital assets are transferred to the right beneficiaries such as friends , families or even charities.

I would like my official twitter or Facebook account to be used for promoting a good cause. What would you like your account to be used for ?

Protecting Your Digital Estate After Death

Protecting Your Digital Estate After Death

Estate law has roots that go back a thousand years into the British legal system, but the changes in technology are flipping these laws on their ear. The average American’s digital footprint is valued around $55,000, notes the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. The majority of people do not have a plan for their digital assets and the laws are too antiquated to handle the process. This lack of forethought leaves the deceased at risk of posthumous identity theft, loss of transferable assets, and digital fraud.

What Is A Digital Estate?

In the Science Technology Law Journal, researcher Jamie Patrick Hopkins defines a digital estate as anything that only exists in a binary form of numeric encoding. These include uploaded photographs, electronic documents, emails, and software. These are all potential intellectual properties that are floating around the Internet after death. Intellectual properties can be big money. A report by the National Bureau of Asian Research shows intellectual property fraud in the United States can exceed $300 million. Digital estates hold many of these intellectual properties, but the decedent often does not plan to secure and bequeath the property. Instead, these properties become part of an inadequate legal system.

Laws Governing Digital Property

Out of 50 states, 31 have no laws on the books that specifically govern digital estates, reports Everplans. Other states, like Delaware, have enacted legislation that allows fiduciary access to digital accounts. The implications of these laws are huge. Imagine a hotly contested inheritance between spouse and children. One claims there is a picture on the dead person’s phone that will prove the case. The states that have these new laws on the books will give legal status for people to get account passwords and information that would be the deciding factors in cases like this.

The National Conference Of Commissioners On Uniform State Laws is trying to codify this patchwork system throughout the states. It is called the Fiduciary Access To Digital Access Actand the draft gives guidelines on how the states will release digital information to attorneys, trustees, and beneficiaries of an estate.

Protecting Your Digital Estate

All estate planning has one rule: start when you are still alive. Yes, there is a certain amount of obviousness to the rule but the newness of digital laws makes this even more important. You no longer have the luxury of allowing the established laws to handle your estate. Include all of your intellectual and digital property in your will, including passwords. Internet security company LifeLock recommends changing your password often. This is good information for protecting your electronic assets, but make sure to give permission to access your accounts after your death.

Digital assets need to be enumerated in your will or trust. Some of the specifics need to include file names and descriptions of intellectual properties, account permissions, and image usage criteria. Also remember that wills are public record so a trust may be a safer way to transfer digital rights.

Is Your Digital Life Ready for Your Death?

The big sleep mode: Preparing for your tech life after death

Your money is tied up in online banking, your digital photos and home movies are stored in the cloud, your entire social life is on Facebook and your important documents live on a password-protected computer — when it comes to the digital footprint you leave behind after you die, there are major practical (and legal) implications for tying up all those loose ends.

While you may have considered what to do with your house after you die, technology and legal experts are now warning that our digital lives need some attention too. A 2013 global survey from McAfee found that we store roughly $35,000 worth of digital assets on our devices — almost the same price as a new BMW.

Speaking to CBS News last month, digital legacy specialist and co-founder of the blog The Digital Beyond, Evan Carroll said laws on digital property vary from region to region, while some people address their digital estate in their will and some don’t.

“We have entered this time as a society where we’re a bit ahead of our laws and our policies with respect to our digital policy,” said Carroll.

In Australia, NSW Trustee & Guardian (the government department that provides legal and estate planning advice for Australia’s most populous state) says that the issue isn’t just one of financial losses.
As an example, the department says 9 out of 10 Australians have a social media account, but 83 percent of these people haven’t discussed what happens with these accounts after they’re gone.

NSW Trustee & Guardian Assistant Director for Legal Services Ruth Pollard said we all add to our “digital legacy” every day, but few of us have steps in place to look after this legacy in the event of death.

“The problem is that it is not as easy to transfer digital assets as it is tangible assets such as a car, house or shares,” said Pollard. “Without planning for death there is a danger that the digital assets will become inaccessible or be destroyed when a person dies.”

“With the increase in storing personal information online it is more difficult for executors to determine just what are your assets. Take for example online banking — it is very difficult for an executor to determine what bank or credit unions a deceased person was a member of [when] there are no obvious paper statements sitting in a folder in a filing cupboard anymore.”

Pollard says all Australians should take steps to future-proof their digital assets and simplify the process of executing their will. And while you may consider yourself too young to be thinking about the big sleep, these tips make good advice for anyone who has left their mark on the digital world.

Preparing your digital legacy

  • “Compile a list of all your digital assets and online services”

Include social media, cloud services, email, banking, PayPal, blogs, photos, video storage, eBooks and anything that you don’t want to slip into the digital ether.

  • “For each account or service list the location, the username and password and what files are stored”

If you have lots of passwords, you might opt for a password manager to simplify this. Pollard also suggests leaving instructions for your executor on digital locations for photos and videos, “otherwise a lot of family history and memories can be lost”.

  • “Check the terms of agreement, licence or policy of your account”

According to Pollard, different online accounts have different conditions for what happens to the account when you die, so it pays to know the difference. “Some social media providers may allow for accounts to be memorialised when a user dies (such as Facebook), but others may not,” she said. “Some providers (for example, Microsoft) may be prepared to provide copies of information, documents and photos on the account to the next of kin or the executor, whereas others may simply close the account or delete the contents.”

  • “Think about what you want to happen to [your accounts and files] on your death.

“Do you want social media accounts closed, or memorialised? Do you want photos or emails downloaded, printed and distributed to family and friends? Consider whether you wish to replace books and music with hard copies as ebooks and music purchased from iTunes and Amazon cannot be gifted by will as you obtain them under licence and cannot own them.”

  • If you’re making local copies of digital information, keep in mind that storage methods change over the years.

“Floppy discs aren’t really used any more…Will it be the same in 10 years time for the current methods of storage we’re using?

  • Lists of usernames, passwords and account numbers should not be put into your Will.

“There may be a number of people including your beneficiaries who will be entitled to have a copy of your Will, and so to ensure privacy and protect against fraud…include these instructions in a separate document and let your executor know where you keep this document.”