How much do you value your digital assets? Think of all your photos both online and offline, all the movies and music you’ve downloaded over the years, spreadsheets and data from your work, digital journals or blogs, email, personal records… what is all that worth to you?
This is a question that humanity is having to embrace more frequently as our lifestyles continue to become more immersive with technology. No longer is it just a case of passing down the dusty box of photos from one generation to the next, now we have to comprehend digital storage solutions and the possibility that if we suddenly die – our assets may be lost forever if we don’t have an effective digital estate plan in place. We should all take responsibility of the unappreciable nature of life, and make sure this small administrative detail has the tick in the box. More and more of us are now having to face the reality of this issue in the event of a loved one’s death and we can personally make sure we have our shit together with a few steps when you next get some spare time.
Research on this subject is fairly recent, and various figures have been thrown around, with an average price estimate in the tens of thousands often placed on an individual’s digital estate value. But cost isn’t so important right now, if you have any digital assets that mean something to you and you think that is worth protecting, then read on.
Getting your digital assets under control
Firstly, what is your offline storage plan? Do you have numerous hard-drives with photos, movies and other miscellaneous content laying around? Perhaps it’s time for some digital spring cleaning! Grab yourself a few hard-drives and begin to organise your data. Not only is organising your files a good idea for the systematic benefits but it means your loved ones won’t have to go through the hardship of organising your digital administrative mess in the event of the worst.
For the more security conscious reading this (And I implore you to be one of them) then there is a good chance that your hard-drives are encrypted. In the event of your passing, your fortified hard-drives are going to become inaccessible relics to the outside world as a result of your passwords following you when you die – so it’s time to either disclose the password to your nearest and dearest or appoint an executor.
The person bestowed with the responsibility of executing your digital estate plan. This is somebody you would declare on your will. (I would suggest seeking legal council in the specifics of this advice, as this will vary from country to country.) Here our will will contain the passwords, plan and the authority to unlock the entirety of your digital estate online and offline.
A plan of action
Creating a list to guide your executor through the motions is highly advisable, as there is nobody more knowledgable to the ins and outs of your digital assets than you. No need to write a book, simply make a numbered check list outlining the fundamental guidance of locating all your digital content.
- Personal Computer: Can be assessed with password: (Foxdown17)
- Online content: Open up my password manager (1Password for example) with password: (Alpha1293F<) to gain access to my online accounts (Twitter, Cloud Storage, eBay, Facebook, Netflix, Paypal, Email etc) and here you’ll find all of my logins & passwords.
- Offline content: All 3 of my hard-drives can be accessed with password: (Mi03-3@Ghjs)
- Phone Access: Pin code: 34504, (iCloud info etc)
Many companies are now springing up to meet this challenge. See Estate Map for example.
Did you know that the eBook you purchased recently may not be owned by your estate in the event of your death? When purchasing digital media, you’re often agreeing to T&Cs that often state the content can only be used by YOU during YOUR lifetime. When agreeing to the Kindle or iTunes EULA, you’re explicitly agreeing to purchasing these items for YOUR personal use only. After you’re gone, and your account is closed, that item reverts back to the company’s ownership.
This is a tricky situation as many of you would disagree with this stance on principal. Especially as you may have paid a price equal if not greater than the physical counterpart. But understanding the current situation of a world that is still trying to figure out the laws of our digital world (Often hopelessly) is something you should be aware of. I’m not here to advocate any specific direction on this point, but be aware that you have no leg to stand on if you attempt to attack these companies in pursuit of what you think you may own. If you must rebel, simply provide the relevant directions of access within your plan and act accordingly.