The celebrity icloud scandal really had my wheels spinning about a number of things the other day. When are people going to learn that taking naked pictures of yourself never ends well. Also that privacy as we all knew and loved prior to the digital revolution is probably dead. This got me thinking about what happens to our digital footprint when we die.
In the last 25 years we have seen a tidal wave of digital efficiencies come across the world at an almost startling pace. I remember getting my first email address in high school in 1991 and the only people I could communicate were my 3 other techy friends (Mike, George, and Joe). Very few people had computers in their homes much less email and forget about internet. Fast forward to today and our digital footprints are ever expanding; and while they provide great efficiency while you are alive, what happens when you pass away?
Thinking about my own situation, I have email accounts, itunes purchases (far too many by my last count), bank accounts, digital purchases, photo albums, business websites, and social networking sites. This is just a small sample of the lifetime’s worth of stuff that would become completely inaccessible to my wife or kids if I were to pass away in the very near future. So what would happen if all of your accounts were wiped out? What would it mean for you if every aspect of your online life were deleted? For me, it would be a very stressful maybe even crippling situation given how all these accounts interrelate.
Though often overlooked, having your digital assets documented and organized is a vital part in the ever evolving world of estate planning. Based on my client relationships, developing a plan to get your digital affairs in order is crucial for moving forward in today’s ever changing society. Here are some steps to consider:
Inventory your digital life: What’s where?
Make a list of all of your online accounts, memberships, and subscriptions. One of the easiest ways to do this is to make a spreadsheet that includes the web address, user id, password, account numbers, and any other notes. Now since you are including sensitive information make sure you take the proper security precautions and make sure to use password protected encryption on the file.
Appoint a “trustee”:
Next you need to choose someone that you trust to have access to this file either in hard copy or digital format. Many times clients choose the same person that is the executor or co-executor of their estate since they will be dealing with many of the other associated issues upon their passing. Someone that is reliable and would handle the responsibility according to your wishes is the bottom line here.
I can see a day not far off when it is commonplace for digital assets to be incorporated into the work that is done by the estate planning community. Until that day, it will be important for you to work with your estate planning attorney and financial advisor to create a plan for your assets, which will take into account the laws that vary greatly from state to state.
While some “celebrities” are shocked when their photos show up on the internet, I fully understand that the digital world we live in is far more complicated than ever before. It is important for everyone to take control of their digital footprint and while everyone’s solution is different I urge you to give it some thought before it becomes a problem for someone you love.
With that said Becky and I have a list to go make.
Just Another Thought From The Factory on Main
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified legal or financial advisor