What is Digital Estate Planning and Why Do I Need it?

Eradicating Memories – Corporate Responsibility of Digital Legacy

6 year old Jennifer Atkins was just like any other teenager; she liked to use email, faceebook, twitter, tumblr, and blog. She was taking the fullest advantage of the digital age. What set Jennifer apart from other teenage girls was that she was battling a hard war against a disease since she was 12. Jennifer not only discussed her life as a cancer patient – the triumphs, defeats, but also tried to be a normal teenager interacting with friends and family over the internet. The story of Jennifer does not end happily as she passed away in November.

With her passing left her family with much sorrow and anguish, but they tried to move forward and find relief from Jennifer herself. The family had hired a computer expert to use Jennifer’s laptop to find all her passwords so they could relive the life of their family member. Once the computer expert had successfully gotten access to the computer and passwords Jennifer is family began exploring their loved one is life. They found poems, inspirational messages and even some deep and disturbing information. Yet for the family this was more peaceful and a way to never let go of their loved one.
Unfortunately for Jennifer is family the networks that Jennifer had used to communicate and leave the messages they read began to catch wind of what they were doing. Thus beginning the slow process of shutting down Jennifer is accounts, and killing any memories of Jennifer that the family had left.

The issue, sites such as facebook, tumblr, twitter, yahoo, and blog sites had issues with what the family was doing as it went against their terms of services. These sites are very conscious of what new and prospective users might think. If new users thought that these sites could give families access to personal files they may shy away. This might be especially true to people who are estranged from their family. Facebook does give you the option to close accounts down or turn a decease person is page into a memory page (as long as no one logs into the person is account). Yahoo on the other hand will terminate and delete files in their new term user agreement – anyone signing up for yahoo agrees that once dead their account will be deleted.

It is this corporate need to stay protected that caused Jennifer’s family to lose the remaining memories of their daughter. No matter what Jennifer might have wanted, could not matter because the terms of services now days are focused to stop anyone, including families from getting access. Jennifer is family may never getting to know her daughters final thoughts beyond what they had little time to read. This just goes to leave the question, do you have access to your own digital legacy when you sign up for third party sites and are you ready to lose it all and leave nothing for your family if you die? 

What is Digital Estate Planning and Why Do I Need it?

Write out instructions for each package

Chances will be that you won’t be here anymore to tell your executor what to do with each part of your estate — I guess. Remember, your executor will have no way of knowing how you feel unless you spell it out in advance, so you will have to write a document clearly stating what to do with each item.

Take the example of Facebook — no, I’m sure you have an account over there. In 2009, Facebook explained the reason behind creating a memorials for people who left. These memorialized accounts can no longer be found in Suggestions or found by non-confirmed friends, and are a place for friends to share memories in remembrance. Sensitive information are removed, and nobody will access the account anymore. That’s fine, but without preparation about what you’d love to remove or to keep, potential issues can arise. Moreover, you could decide of what you’d like to be remembered for : videos, some text if you used to write, and so on. That’s also a sensitive option to avoid your facebook ghost Liking pages or updating statuses, like some do.

Digital planning
Digital planning

Another thing to keep in mind is that, if you decide to keep resources online, you may have to engage financial assets in it as well. If you want your blog, portfolio or videos online, you’ll have to pay a service provider for it, or make sure that your executor will set up a mechanism to cover those costs. Free hosting solutions can be a solution, if you are not afraid of losing your legacy if their terms change.

It may sound stupid, but once again be sure that this executor will have an easy access to each piece of the puzzle : will, password lists, instructions. It’s also a good to idea to give power of attorney to your executor, to be sure he or she will have all the necessary support from the legal point of view.

Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

Writing instructions to your executor

Chances will be that you won’t be here anymore to tell your executor what to do with each part of your estate — I guess. Remember, your executor will have no way of knowing how you feel unless you spell it out in advance, so you will have to write a document clearly stating what to do with each item.

 

Take the example of Facebook — no, I’m sure you have an account over there. In 2009, Facebook explained the reason behind creating a memorials for people who left. These memorialized accounts can no longer be found in Suggestions or found by non-confirmed friends, and are a place for friends to share memories in remembrance. Sensitive information are removed, and nobody will access the account anymore. That’s fine, but without preparation about what you’d love to remove or to keep, potential issues can arise. Moreover, you could decide of what you’d like to be remembered for : videos, some text if you used to write, and so on. That’s also a sensitive option to avoid your facebook ghost Liking pages or updating statuses, like some do.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, if you decide to keep resources online, you may have to engage financial assets in it as well. If you want your blog, portfolio or videos online, you’ll have to pay a service provider for it, or make sure that your executor will set up a mechanism to cover those costs. Free hosting solutions can be a solution, if you are not afraid of losing your legacy if their terms change.

It may sound stupid, but once again be sure that this executor will have an easy access to each piece of the puzzle : will, password lists, instructions. It’s also a good to idea to give power of attorney to your executor, to be sure he or she will have all the necessary support from the legal point of view.

Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

A topo of digital assets versus tangible assets

A regular definition of a digital asset can be “Anything that is stored digitally, in the cloud or on local media, that might have financial, personal or emotional value”.

Your digital and online assets can be classified in two categories. On the one hand, accounts, which are keys that lead to the digital vaults like iTunes, twitter, facebook, … . On the other hand, you do have digital goods like emails, photos, tweets, music, ebooks, movies, and so on. Apart from these, you can also have digital currency, in the form of money sitting on paypal, bitcoins, online games accounts.

 People start recognizing the value of their digital assets. Take Facebook. It appears that around 10% of Britons leave their facebook password in their will# — and amongst the reasons are the fact that our photo albums do not sit at home.. but in the cloud.

 Lastly, it’s not because it’s a in game that a digital asset will have no value. They are auction websites specialized in trading items or local currencies for online games. A sword in a game (was Age of Wulin) can be sold 16k$ — and World of Warcraft fans can sell their characters from 500 to 800$ for characters on which some time was spent, to 5000$ for some well equipped warriors.

 You can consider as well your eBook library, songs and electronic movie catalog (all of them being legal and paid for, I’m sure), as well as, let’s say, your apps, for which you’ll be spending around 10$ a month# in average. Whatever the support digital assets rely on, they still represent prized possessions, with a clear financial value, but also a nice sentimental and personal value.

 A washington estate attorney took the example of one client having a complete activity and business online. A photograph today can have pictures that are published or licensed, thousands of pictures stored digitally, instructional videos and tutorials, etc.

Now imagine her heirs going into her house after her departure: there may be no trace of her business, save for the camera and set-ups. But the products would not be there, maybe no negatives, or prints, even less film rolls. Contracts, licenses, all accounts could be stored as well in the cloud. Without a proper planning, her whole life work could be done: no more publishing or licensing.