Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

A poor man solution

The quick and easy solution is to have your password list stored on a DropBox account, in different password vaults. The vaults can be linked in an instruction file to specific beneficiaries. Each of these vaults will have a separate password, that your digital executor may not have. I do use KeePass for this, but there are also examples of using other software such as 1Password.

The DropBox account will be linked to your digital executor so that, in proper times, the executor can retrieve the password of the DropBox on a specific safe-deposit box, so that the executor send the vaults to the appropriate beneficiaries, with a reminder of the password. You can be creative, it should be something that you and the beneficiary have in common: the name of the first teacher, using a birthday, using the name of a common boss… You have plenty of options!

An advantage of this is that the key to your assets are stored on your side, and you’re not losing your control over them. Process to update your lists is simple: you just edit it on your computer and that’s already put in safety.

Clear rules needed for managing digital afterlife

Rights and licenses for digital assets

You will have to be extremely cautious when discussing about your rights on the digital goods that you are using. Sometimes you own your assets, but in some other cases, you do not really own them. For example, you may not own an ebook the same way you own a hardcover, paper-based, physical book — or music they same way you have CDs at home. If we take the example of the Mac App Store, we might see in the Terms of purchase (which of course you had carefully and thoughtfully read) that you buy a license to use, not a good that you own — and the public realized this after an outburst of actor Bruce Willis.

Some other services, like trusts, can be used to transfer the license to a .. trust. That’s what, for example, a Digital Asset Protection Trust# “can manage these assets and allow those who you pre select to access them without violations of the license terms and without potential liability to others”.

We’re of course not advising you to try to break the law, but you can make it easier for your beneficiaries to access the files that you once “had”. With a proper planning, you can make sure they will have all the cards in hands to receive what you wanted them to have. But having access is different from having the rights to listen to your former favorite songs!.

Who will get your iTunes when you die?

Template of a Will Clause For Digital Assets

(template)

My Trustee may access, handle, distribute, and dispose of my digital assets, and may obtain, access, modify, delete, and control my passwords and other electronic credentials associated with my digital devices and digital assets. My Trustee may engage contractors or agents to assist my Trustee in accessing, handling, distributing, and disposing of my digital assets. [OPTIONAL: Without restricting my Trustee, it is my wish that my Trustee engage to assist the Trustee in accessing, handling, distributing, and disposing of my digital assets.]

If I have prepared a memorandum, which may be altered by me from time to time, with instructions concerning my digital assets and their access, handling, distribution, and disposition, it is my wish that my Trustee and beneficiaries follow my instructions as outlined in that memorandum.

For the purpose of my Will, “digital assets” includes the following:

  1. Files stored on my digital devices, including but not limited to, desktops, laptops, tablets, peripherals, storage devices, mobile telephones, smartphones, and any similar digital device; and
  2. Emails received, email accounts, digital music, digital photographs, digital videos, software licenses, social network accounts, file sharing accounts, financial accounts, banking accounts, domain registrations, DNS service accounts, web hosting accounts, tax preparation service accounts, online stores, affiliate programs, other online accounts, and similar digital items, regardless of the ownership of any physical device upon which the digital item is stored.