August 14, 2012

Passing On Your Digital Assets

Your online billing accounts, PayPal account, Amazon account, Gmail account, Yahoo! account, the pictures on your desktop, your videos on YouTube, your blog, your Facebook, your Twitter, your LinkedIn... When you die, what is going to happen to your “digital assets?”

The current laws governing the treatment of digital assets are frequently unclear, and in most states, nonexistent. Many websites will not provide access to family members after the original user passes away, and those that do often require paperwork and death certificates. When most people pass away, nothing is going to happen to their digital assets, and that is probably not a good thing. Your digital assets need even more protection after you’re gone to protect your identity, to protect your financial assets, to protect your content, and most importantly, to protect your privacy.

By simply taking the time to create a master list of your accounts, usernames, passwords, and wishes, you can make sure that the angry e-mail you drafted but never sent stays your secret. By creating a central database on a memory stick and putting it in your safety deposit box, you can guarantee your Facebook page doesn’t show that picture of you in Vegas as a memorial forever. By telling your spouse the password to your Excel file that lists all your PINs, you can ensure your memoir doesn’t remain permanently inaccessible (like Leonard Bernstein’s is on his old computer). By using the secure services of one of the many “afterlife data companies,” or by following any of the other examples above, you can provide your executor or family members the information they need to fulfill your last digital wishes.

As our culture continues to become more information-driven, digital assets will become more personal and even more valuable. However you prefer to handle passing on your digital assets is up to you, but please develop a plan and keep it updated. If you don’t, it could be a “fatal error.”

- Tom

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