Most people are reluctant to think about their own death and what happens to their estate, but in terms of their digital legacy, it’s essential to do so if they want to spare their family problems.
Without the right data, it’ll be difficult or even impossible for them to gain access to a deceased relative’s Internet accounts.
Here are some tips from Germany’s Federal Association of Consumer Organizations on how best to take care of your digital legacy.
Write it down: It’s important to write down all login data for your Internet accounts and place the information somewhere relatives can find it. The easiest way is to write your usernames and passwords down on a piece of paper and keep them in an envelope in a safe place. It’s important to remember to update them as required.
Get a password manager: This is a programme that saves all your access data in one place and in encrypted form. Then all you have to remember is one password, the master password. You’ll have to let relatives know what this is so that they can have access if needed.
Choose a confidante: Users need to name a trusted person who’ll take care of any rights and obligations arising from contracts with online service providers if they die. The decision to give someone power of attorney needs to written down, dated and signed in a document.
Leave instructions: Users need to set down in writing what exactly they want done with their digital estate post-mortem. The consumer association advises giving a confidante detailed instructions for each service – for example, should the Facebook profile be deleted or left as a memorial? Instructions should also include directions on what to do with data on your computer, smartphone, tablet and so on.
Avoid service providers: There are companies that will, for a fee, handle a person’s digital legacy. However, the German association advises against using such services as it’s very difficult to judge their security and trustworthiness. Certainly in no circumstances should such a company be entrusted with your password information. – dpa
As I get older I’m becoming more and more aware of death and my own mortality. This causes me great anxiety. It has been heightened by Ethan’s autism diagnosis and my fear of who will look after him when I am gone. It’s amazing how many people assumed we had another child just for this purpose. Autism made me learn to never put any pre-conceived expectations onto my children. If anything I would love Little E to embrace the world as much as she can. I wouldn’t want her to have a pre-determined role as her brother’s carer. She does look after him naturally without thinking but I wouldn’t want this to stop her future ambitions and dreams.
As much as I would love to pretend a future without me in it isn’t going to happen, I’m yet to find the fountain of youth! My biggest hope for our son’s future is to make him as independent as possible. This will take lots of time and lots of life lessons. This was one of the reasons we fought for our sons school placement. His school focuses on life lessons rather than exam results.
I’m assuming there will be a time when we will have to look into his housing options. We won’t know how his needs will have to be met until the time comes to discuss his options.
We will also have to look into finances, his and ours this is something we will have to take legal advice on. This type of thing can get complicated when special needs are involved.
What Should I Do About My Digital Legacy?
With the realisation that our son was autistic I needed an outlet and I started this blog. I used it as a way of sharing our journey and now I like to look of it as our family diary. It’s our online life and one that has helped me make new friends and get good advice during our autism journey. Our blog is also linked to many different social media channels and we have a growing YouTube channel too.
It feels very strange to think about considering your online life when you talk about death. We are the generation that first saw the Internet introduced. It was expensive to have, a luxury even. This meant it wasn’t something that was in every home. We had to listen to the dialling tone and wait for connection before you even had a chance of browsing the World Wide Web. Now nearly everyone has access to the Internet at his or her fingertips. Smart phones are part of our everyday life and there is an app for anything and everything.
What will happen to my online life when I am gone? Will Ethan or Little E want to take over our YouTube Channel? Will our children want to have access to our blog or continue to blog? These really are things I will have to consider. Things that the generations before us never even had to think about.
If you think this is something that you will also need to consider SunLife has some very useful information on securing your digital legacy.
DISCLOSURE – This post is in collaboration with SunLife.
VeChain Foundation has announced that SafeHaven will switch from the Ethereum blockchain to the VeChainThor blockchain.
The company states that it has reviewed SafeHaven’s technology, network, and background and sees “true value added to our platform by working together in partnership. This partnership will allow users access to a host of necessary solutions for continuity.”
It is rumored that one of the reasons why SafeHaven ditched the Ethereum platform is because of the associated scalability concerns.
The company states, “with the rise in cryptoassets, digital inheritance has become a critical technological need to empower entire business procedures, individual legacies, and continuity for disasters.”
The aim of the platform is to resolve the important question of how your family and spouses can gain access to your digital legacy in case of loss of life. It has four main products such as the Family Circle Plan, which gives access to a defined group, and the Business Continuity Plan, which allows “companies to distribute authority, ownership, and assets in programmable smart contracts to be executed on a set event, outcome, or procedure.” Besides, it offers its users to use two other plans called Investment Circles, which is an improvement on the multisig wallet and “is useful for people who manage group fundings” and a Safe Haven Vault, which enables data sharing with certain individuals. In both cases, you define the terms of the access.
According to VeChain, the Safe Haven Family Circle Distribution Protocol is currently being tested on the Ropsten network. VeChain also indicated that they will soon announce the date of VET private and public offerings.
In turn, SafeHaven also pledged in its own announcement “through the facilitation of VeChain Foundation, to enable VeChain X-Node holders to have methods to achieve different tiers of rights of purchase and discounts.”
Currently, VeChain trades at $3.21 USD (2.87%). Previously the company also partnered with DNV, a Norway based organization.
Read our review of Safe Haven here.
Digital property is increasingly becoming a more important part of estate planning. Individuals should consider their digital property, in addition to their tangible assets, when finalizing and reviewing their estate plans.
A person’s digital property and electronic communications are referred to as “digital assets” and the companies who store those assets on their servers (Google, Facebook, Apple, etc.) are referred to as “custodians.” Digital assets are typically governed by terms of a service agreement — not by property law. These service agreements are unhelpful when a user passes away or becomes incapacitated. As the number of digital assets we have increases daily, so does this growing issue. To address this, many states have adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA), which allows a fiduciary the legal authority to manage another’s property and specifically allows Internet users the power to plan for the management and disposition of their digital assets.
Digital assets should be included in your normal estate planning and wealth transfer conversations with your estate planning attorney and family members. Your estate planning attorney may create an amendment to your existing will, trust, or power of attorney to give the designated agent the authority to direct or dispose of your digital assets. This amendment may take the form of a Virtual Asset Instruction Letter, which allows you to list accounts, instructions for those accounts, and the person(s) designated to access them.
Digital assets, while not always tangible, can be very valuable. For example, airline miles and hotel points have obvious monetary value, while photos, emails, and other creative works have sentimental value. As a result, it is important for individuals to have a plan for photos, email and social media accounts, financial accounts, and online memorabilia and documents.
Please contact us to request additional resources on creating a digital estate.
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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.
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.
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 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?