How to Successfully Prepare For Your Digital Afterlife

Woman with laptop and paperwork

The world has gone digital and like it or not, you have to as well.

By Lee Poskanzer

The world has gone digital and like it or not, you have to as well. Don’t believe me? PEW Research recently reported that close to 90 percent of Americans are now connected to the Internet, 77 percent have a smartphone and 64 percent of adults 50 to 64 are actively engaged on social media. In the process they are accumulating an enormous number of digital assets. But what the heck are digital assets?

Digital assets can include emails, photos, videos, documents and online accounts such as bank accounts, investment portfolios, social media accounts such as Facebook, online shopping services and streaming services such as iTunes, Spotify and Pandora, among others. There also are services such as Gmail, Dropbox, Shutterfly and others that hold information that can direct representatives to cash value assets. For example, a bank’s electronic statements are sent to an email eliminating any chance for a paper trail. And if the statements are being sent to an email address that no one knows about, then no one will know about the funds.

And here’s the conundrum: Have you ever thought about what’s going to happen to your digital assets when you’re no longer here? Well you are not alone. The fact is that most Americans have given very little thought of how to manage their digital afterlife. A survey by AARP’s Public Policy Institute found that 6 out of 10 adult Internet users have not considered how they want to address their digital legacy.

Poskanzer

Not to be a rainy day at the beach, but we all have to plan what to do with our digital afterlife. Then share it with loved ones. Why? Well first and foremost, when a person passes, it’s both emotional and traumatic for his or her loved ones, which complicates good decision-making. By creating a well documented digital afterlife plan you’re helping them by making your wishes known with a document that could potentially stand up to both state and federal laws and the general practices governing the use of internet-based services. In many states today, laws pertaining to the disposition of assets do not address what happens to digital content after the owner dies.

Second, those online accounts and digital assets along with your bank accounts, credit cards and recurring online subscriptions don’t just go away. Without proper documentation from you, your loved ones will have to notify every one of your accounts and request deletion, transference or memorialization based on your specific instruction. Remember providing a list with your user names and passwords is not enough. Most online service providers keep user accounts live unless the user or a designated executor terminates them. This is the result of the Terms of Service agreement signed between the user and the service provider, which errs on the side of privacy over open access to the account.

Lastly those assets that form your digital legacy have both sentimental and monetary value.

McAfee, an American global computer security software company recently estimated that individuals own an average of about $35,000 worth of digital assets. Not planning for the distribution of these assets in an estate plan could be a significant financial oversight and could lead to legal complications for loved ones.

Four Tips for Managing Your Digital Afterlife

Managing your digital estate is an important and growing issue for anyone who is socially and financially connected to the web. Here are some simple steps you can take to be prepared:

1: Talk with your estate planner about your digital afterlife. Take time to discuss and review your online service providers’ policies and current digital asset laws both state and federal. Pay close attention to the fine print as it could cause complications.

2: Formally document your digital asset wishes with a tool like Directive Communication Systems Estate planning service. These services canbe a valuable tool for capturing your existing accounts and any future ones that you may enroll in. You can also easily make your directives selection and change them at anytime.

3: Include clear disclosure of your wishes for your digital assets (especially those with value) including stated permission for whom you would like to access your accounts, disclosure of the location of the inventory list mentioned above and specific instructions for the administration of your digital assets and accounts.

4: Identify loved ones to serve as designees to receive and evaluate your different assets. It is important to select individuals or entities who are responsible and whom you trust with your private and confidential information.

Lee Poskanzer is CEO/Directive Communication Systems, Inc. Directive Communication Systems  identifies, organizes and continually maintains an individual’s personal account and directives portfolio and handles the notification of disposition instructions when called up. 

 

2 Responses to “How to Successfully Prepare For Your Digital Afterlife”

  1. Kathleen Sheer says:

    I loved this article it was very helpful and timely – thank you

  2. It is always good to hire a Lawyer, if there is any doubt regarding Legal Issues.

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