If you passed away tomorrow what would happen with all your online accounts, subscriptions, and services? Would a family member be able to access the thousands of pictures you have stored on your hard drive? What would happen to all those songs you have downloaded from iTunes? Would your World of Warcraft character be forever lost in Azeroth?
To help ensure that your photos, emails, music, video and any other types of digital assets you have accumulated over your life is protected and handled as you wish, it is important to consider the following:
1. Identify Your Digital Assets: “Digital Assets” is an umbrella term which includes any electronic file or media which you have right, possession or interest in. Such digital assets may include:
- Social Media Accounts: Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, etc.
- Music, Video, Photography Accounts: iTunes, Pandora, YouTube, Flickr, etc.
- Financial Service Accounts: Mint, PayPal, Ebay, Amazon, etc.
- Communication / Information Platforms: Online Newspapers, Cell Phone, Email, Text, etc.
The key here is to think broadly. Think about your daily or weekly routine. What are the first sites you visit when you sit down at your computer? What apps do you have on your smart phone? What notices do you receive through your email account?
2. How are these assets stored or protected: Do you have one user name and password for all your digital assets? I certainly hope not; as my step-father has repeatedly advised me – “Your passwords should be encrypted and frequently changed.” He recommends KeePassX, a personal password management system. If you were to pass away today is there a place where your username and passwords are kept?
3. Determine What Should Happen Upon Your Death: Do you wish to leave your vacation pictures to Aunt Selma? Would you prefer that YouTube video of you on New Year’s Eve fade into internet oblivion?
4. Meet with an Estate Planning Attorney: An estate planning attorney can help organize your Will or make other arrangements to see that your Digital Assets are properly handled.
LEGAL CAVEAT: I should mention that Massachusetts currently has not adopted any legislative direction over your digital assets after death.This being the case, despite your best intentions, it may still be difficult for your loved ones to access your electronic accounts because of the contractual terms and conditions between you and the 3rd party electronic provider. Your loved ones may have to produce a death certificate or order from the Court before allowing access to your electronic accounts, the account provider may only allow limited access, or legal action may need to be taken.
I wish you all the best,
DISCLAIMER: This communication provides general information and does not constitute legal advice. Attorney Advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.