Swedish death cleaning: How to declutter your home and life

Swedish death cleaning: How to declutter your home and life

There has been a trend in recent years, both in literature and in life, for Scandinavian concepts that are encapsulated in a single word. Hygge, for example – which is Danish for cosiness, contentment or well-being – dominated the publishing industry in 2016.

Now, the new buzzword on the block is “dostadning” – a hybrid of the Swedish words “death” and “cleaning”. How much these fad words are actually a part of Scandinavian culture is debatable, but dostadning is the new phenomenon outlined in Margareta Magnusson’s The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. In Europe, the book has already occupied a good deal of reviewing space and according to Time magazine, dostadning will be the hot new trend stateside in 2018.

Magnusson’s book chimes with the current anxiety about clutter in the 21st century. Dostadning advocates the proactive and mindful clearing out of possessions before death. The idea is that it saves relatives the onerous task of making decisions about what to keep and what to throw or give away. The book reflects the simple fact that we are all living longer lives. This results, of course, in more stuff.

Digital death

But it also means we have more time to get rid of things. We can start planning for our death by slimming down what we leave behind – shedding unnecessary objects in favour of what we actually need. It is the antithesis, perhaps, of the ancient Egyptian tradition of being buried with things that might accompany us into the afterlife.

Magnusson’s top tips for dostadning focus mostly on material possessions – though she suggests keeping a book of passwords for family so they can access online data more easily. But this is no straightforward task, given that more and more of our data – photos, letters, memories – as well as actual things – music and books – exist in digital rather than analogue form. And as more of our lives are logged and lodged virtually, chances are our relatives might not be able to access it.

“Don’t mind me, just writing down all my passwords for when I die”.
Shutterstock

A documentary about this precise issue aired recently on BBC Radio 4. My Digital Legacy was part of the We Need to Talk about Death series and featured terminally ill patients with an extensive digital footprint who rely on the internet – especially on social media – to connect to the world around them. The programme also heard from bereaved relatives who experienced difficulties in accessing data, including Facebook profiles, of loved ones after their death.

The death manager

My recent short story How To Curate a Life, published by Storgy Books in the anthology Exit Earth, deals with precisely this issue. Set in the not too distant future, the parents of a young woman killed suddenly in an accident try to commission Jesse – a “digital death manager” – not to curate her life but to erase it: to gain access to her files then destroy them.

In this fictional world where everyone is required to dictate the terms of their digital estate, it is illegal for Jesse to tamper with the girl’s online content. And yet, the financial reward would mean freedom from his desk bound job forever.

The concept of decluttering before you die is apparently part of Swedish culture.
Shutterstock

The story grew from an idea I found online about careers that will be ubiquitous in the future. Digital death management, it seems, is definitely set to become “A Thing”. And just as we now commission solicitors or will writers to oversee our material estate – there will come a time when people will also hire someone to clean up their digital footprint

In our already busy lives, does tending to our online existence give us one more thing to do? Perhaps so. But it’s about taking responsibility for our own stuff. If we don’t make the decisions about what to keep or discard – whether actual or online – then ultimately others will need to. And if we don’t leave clear directions about where to find our digital content, it makes things tougher for everyone.

As Magnusson writes, death cleaning is “a permanent form of organisation that makes everyday life run smoothly”. What better legacy to leave behind than to ease the bereavement process for the ones we love?

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Digital estate sales widen the treasure hunt

Digital estate sales widen the treasure hunt

Selling all or part of the contents of a home tends to follow one of the three Ds: divorce, downsizing or death.

Professional estate sale companies are often called in, but many no longer operate like the ones that dispensed with your grandparents’ belongings. As shopping continues to migrate to the Internet, so too have estate sales, with all or part of them now taking place online.

“If you don’t have an online presence to advertise your sales, it’s going to be difficult to get much reach,” said Boni Wish, who operates Grasons Co. City of Angels, a full-service estate sale planning firm.

Michael Judkins, founder of EstateSales.org estimates that 60% of estate sales are traditional in-person sales, and 40% have some form of online auction format.

Although online sales require more upfront work to photograph and post items, they offer advantages. It’s more convenient, out-of-town shoppers can participate and hurdles posed by gated communities and restrictive HOA policies can be avoided.

In 2007, Jacquie Denny and Brian Graves founded Everything but the House as an online estate sale company that liquidates estates with a blend of e-commerce and online bidding. The site, with detailed photos and modern typography, mirrors the look of upscale fashion and decor sites.

After running in-person vintage and estate sales in Cincinnati for 20 years, Denny saw changes in the buying habits and lifestyles of a new generation of estate sale clients and shoppers.

“We were finding fewer people wanted to be out at 6 a.m., even if they loved vintage,” Denny said. “We also saw that more and more moms and dads were living in a place where their children were not. The support that moms and dads in past generations got through their transitions were often no longer available.”

Local Everything but the House teams sort and photograph sale items. Sales run online for five to 10 days, with each bid starting at $1. Shoppers can filter the site for nearby sales, which take place in 23 cities, including Los Angeles, where the company has headquarters and a warehouse.

Depending on how the sale is structured, winning bidders can choose to pay for shipping or local delivery or pick up items for no extra charge on a set date.

Clicking through a computer screen removes a lot of the personality that comes with walking through a person’s home during an estate sale, but the search for great finds doesn’t change, Wish said. “It’s always a treasure hunt.”

Digital Estates - Why you should plan your online legacy

Digital Estates – Why you should plan your online legacy

Despite the ever-growing role of social media and online services in people’s lives, they often neglect to include their digital estates in their estate planning. This can lead to headaches and complications for heirs during an already difficult time, and raises the question of who inherits the digital data. Leaving instructions and information about a digital estate can help to avoid many issues surrounding this still rather new but important reality.

With more and more people using the internet to tweet, email, manage their bank accounts and make purchases, many records, photos and important business documents are now saved on remote servers instead of being kept in a filing cabinet or a shoebox. Keeping track of one’s own online activities and the many passwords that are created over decades can be challenging enough. For heirs, the problem is even more complex. Not only do they often not have the passwords to a deceased’s accounts, they usually have little to no idea of the extent of a deceased’s online activities.

More than just a Facebook profile
Digital estates consist of digital assets, digital devices and digital accounts. Digital assets are data in all formats, including emails, documents, audio, video, and social media and networking content. Digital devices are the electronic devices such as laptops and smartphones used for this data. The third element, digital accounts, are electronic systems for dealing with information. These provide access to digital assets and include email accounts, social networks, and online banking and shopping accounts.

When a person dies, it is important to identify and secure digital estates quickly in order to prevent fraud and loss, as well as protect the privacy and personal history of the deceased.

Who inherits a digital estate?
Legislation in most countries has failed to keep pace with technological developments, leading to uncertainty as to how digital estates should be passed on to heirs. In Switzerland, for example, digital data is not specifically regulated. It can therefore not be assumed that heirs will automatically inherit data into their ownership, and there is no legal basis upon which to request that data be released or profiles deleted. Further to this, much data are covered by the right to privacy. Although this usually expires when a person dies, it can again be difficult for the deceased’s family to claim entitlement to the data or have it deleted. Also, even if heirs have passwords to digital accounts, it can be considered a breach of the terms and conditions to log in with them if no prior arrangements have been made.

This problem is compounded by the fact that many internet platform providers and social media companies are based abroad. As a result, the legal relationships with users often come under foreign jurisdiction, which means that any request relating to data must, in addition to the estate’s own law, be verified under foreign law. Further to this, data is subject to the terms and conditions of the individual providers. These differ greatly from one provider to the next, and in the absence of precise instructions from users, default provisions tend to be applied.

For individuals resident in Switzerland for example, the situation is clearer for data stored on digital devices: these are inherited along with the device. Heirs of such devices also inherit any assets such as credit balances on PayPal or Bitcoin accounts. Data that are protected by copyright, such as computer programs, or photos with artistic value, can also be inherited.

Simple solutions for complex problems
Many platforms, such as Facebook and Gmail, allow users to give instructions in the event of their death. This enables a person to determine how they want their accounts and data handled. In practice, however, few people provide such instructions. And even if they do, they have only addressed one segment of their digital estate. In addition to giving such instructions, there are other measures that can be taken.

Managing one’s passwords is one way to ensure that heirs who are to be granted access can do so readily. This requires maintaining a secured, up-to-date list of accounts, user IDs and passwords for all databases and profiles. Another option is to incorporate access into a will: users can nominate an heir or other person to handle their digital estate and specify what is to happen to the data. This can include a separate list of the services used and the passwords for each of these. And finally, special legal authorisations such as an advanced care directive can simplify the desired handling of digital data in the event of incapacity.

These precautions will save heirs time and energy when confronted with this growing issue, and help ensure the deceased’s digital legacy will live on according to their wishes.

Digital Estate Planning Concerns

Digital Estate Planning Concerns

If you have taken the time to create a will or any other instrument of estate planning, you are already better off than more than half of American adults. When drafting a will, most people consider most of their physical belongings along with investments or savings kept in the bank or at other financial institutions. Digital assets, however, often go overlooked, as many people do not even remember that they exist when they sit down to develop their estate plans. Some may not even know what digital assets are.

What Are Digital Assets?

Do you have a library of e-books from Amazon? What about a collection of songs from iTunes or apps from Google Play? These are some of the most common examples of digital assets. With the advancement of online technology, there are more types of digital assets today than ever before. In addition to e-books, programs, and music, digital assets also include pictures, data, visual designs, artwork, and online accounts for gaming, entertainment, and social media. If you have even one these types of assets—and since you are reading a blog right now, you probably do—it is important to develop a plan for dealing with them after your death.

Make a List

The first thing you should do is to create an inventory of all of your digital accounts, subscriptions, and assets. Be sure to include how to access each of them along with usernames, passwords, and security questions. You should also list any accounts that are setup for automatic payments, including credit cards, utilities, and any other bills that are paid online. This list can then be included in your estate plan and given directly to your chosen executor.

Make Advance Decisions

Once you know what you have, you can start to think about what should be done with your digital assets. Depending on the asset, there may be rules in place for what will happen to them upon your death. Songs and movies downloaded from iTunes, for example, may be transferred to surviving family member, but Apple does not guarantee that transfers will always be allowed. Similarly, social media sites offer different options for your account following your death, so be sure to review them and decide which is best for you. All such decisions should also be included in your estate plan.

We Can Help

If you have questions about what constitutes a digital asset and how to provide such assets in your estate plan, contact an experienced Lombard estate planning attorney. Call 630-426-0196 for a confidential consultation at A. Traub & Associates today.

Sources:

Safeguard Your Digital Estate

Safeguard Your Digital Estate

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. Some of this material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite is not affiliated with the named representative, broker – dealer, state – or SEC – registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.

Copyright 2017 FMG Suite.

Securities and advisory services offered through SII Investments, Inc. (SII) Member FINRA/SIPC and a

Registered Investment Advisor. SII and Michael E. Halla & Associates are separate companies.

SII does not provide tax or legal advice.

IMPORTANT CONSUMER INFORMATION

This site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a solicitation or offering of any security and:

Representatives of a Registered Broker-Dealer (“BD”) or Registered Investment Advisor (“IA”) may only conduct business in a state if the representatives and the BD or IA they represent (a) satisfy the qualification requirements of, and are approved to do business by, that state; or (b) are excluded or exempted from that state’s registration requirements.

Representatives of a BD or IA are deemed to conduct business in a state to the extent that they would provide individualized responses to investor inquiries that involve (a) effecting, or attempting to effect, transactions in securities; or (b) rendering personalized investment advice for compensation.

We are registered to offer securities in the following states: IL and WI.