Charitable digital assets

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Such has the concentration been on the Millennial Generation that the focus has moved away significantly from the most compelling generation, particularly for businesses and charities: the Baby Boomers.

Not just Baby Boomers but, more specifically, Baby Boomer women. Born between 1946 and 1964 this affluent segment wields more spending clout than any other. Many have developed successful careers and made substantial investments during the boom years, and with inheritances from parents and/or husbands, they have become more financially empowered than any other generation of women.

Whilst there might once have been a noticeable digital divide between Millennials and Boomers, that is definitely no longer the case today. Baby Boomers don’t spend vast amounts of time glued to their smartphones or tablets, but they do engage in online communications on a very regular basis. They also download music and films and watch videos online, they use their smartphones as cameras, they purchase goods and services online and they actively search for health information – now the third most popular online activity for all internet users 18 and older.

Yet when it comes to addressing the issue of digital asset protection, the focus, again, has been on the younger generations. Part of the reason for this is the number of children and teenagers who have died leaving their parents with the heartache of trying to access their online accounts.

Baby Boomers too have a digital legacy that is worth protecting. Since Baby Boomers contribute more than 40 percent of all giving, for charities, these digital legacies have the potential for being a source of considerable income. If we take Tim Cooke as an example of generously giving to charities and then extrapolate that out to what his digital assets are probably worth – you can just image how a charity would benefit if he bequeathed them even a fraction of these assets.

Bibic is an ideal example of a charity geared up to benefit from donated digital assets. This may be something few of us think of, yet the value of these untapped assets stretches into billions of pounds.  Now that is something worth considering!

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Mind the (digital planning) gap

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The message finally seems to be getting across. Families who have lost siblings may not have to fight quite so hard to get access to their loved ones’ social media accounts when they die.

Facebook has announced the launch of a legacy contact feature that allows users to give permission to someone else (a family member or friend) to manage their account when they pass away and to post a final message or an obituary on their behalf.

Prior to this service, when an account holder died Facebook offered just a basic memorialised account that was viewable but could not be managed by anyone.

It is estimated that more than 10,000 Facebook users die each day. Whilst the announcement of the legacy contact service is good news for the family of the deceased, they will still not be able to access everything in an individual’s account. Furthermore, the service is only available (at present) in the US.

However, it’s a good start and we are seeing other organisations such as Apple, Google and Twitter beginning to recognise the need to provide digital legacy services. But the social media networks can be just a small part of an individual’s digital legacy.

In research undertaken by Saga, a British company with around 3 million customers and focusing on serving the needs of those aged 50 and over, found that 87 percent of Britons have not planned their digital legacy. Almost a year ago the UK Law Society was urging people to leave clear instructions about what should happen to their social media, computer games and other online accounts after their death.

Gary Rycroft, a member of the Law Society Wills and Equity Committee, said people should not assume family members know where to look online and to make details of their digital life absolutely clear. Even if family members have knowledge of an individual;s usernames and passwords for online accounts, accessing these account could be committing a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

Given the rapidly changing volume, nature and ownership of digital assets, it is becoming more widely recognised by lawyers that including these assets in Wills can be difficult and expensive, particularly if regular changes are to be made to the WIll. That’s one of the reasons why Planned Departure is working closely with an increasing number of law firms to efficiently accommodate individuals’ digital legacies.

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The challenge of strong encryption

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Such is the ubiquitous use of smartphones, tablets, laptops and other digital gizmos that they have become reflections of our personalities, our interests and our identities. They are as much a part of us as the clothes we wear.

For the majority, the blogosphere and social media networks – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and others – have become woven into the very fabric of our lives. We have transitioned to a global interactive knowledge economy, our world marked by major upheavals in technological innovations.

Even in countries dominated by authoritarian regimes, social media have given people access to alternative and independent sources of information. Such is the extent of the availability of knowledge that it can bring about fundamental reform. This can be seen no more clearly than the Arab Spring.

Given the conspicuous silence of the Arab media towards the suppression of political dissent, human rights abuses and earlier protest activities, the popular uprisings in the Arab world in 2011 took many in the West by surprise.

But in this knowledge-rich world and with newly developing digital technologies comes surveillance on an unprecedented scope and scale. The social networking services we use so frequently, our digitised address books and messaging applications provide a wealth of detailed knowledge of who we are, where we are and our associates and contacts.

Documents released by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden suggest that the NSA and the UK’s GCHQ have unilaterally sought to compromise the security of private systems and networks—many operated by major US-based technology companies—to gain access to user data and communications.

These revelations have led to global loss of trust in the security and privacy of US-origin technology. As a result, US companies have introduced a number of encryption measures to safeguard users against surveillance overreach. Google and Apple have announced that data stored on their mobile devices would be encrypted by default, with even the company unable to decrypt locally stored data. WhatsApp has introduced end-to-end encryption and Facebook, Microsoft, and Yahoo are also expanding encryption across their services.

In the digital age, strong encryption may be deemed essential for the enjoyment of the right to communicate anonymously and privately. We might applaud the activities of Apple, Google, Facebook and other companies, but give a thought to what could happen to the digital assets of individuals who use the products and services of these companies, particularly when they die.

There has been much written in the media concerning the enormous difficulties parents have faced when trying to retrieve the information and material stored in the social media accounts of their loved ones who have passed away.

Strong encryption only makes the task exceedingly more difficult unless appropriate measures are taken during our living years to ensure that, when we die, the digital material we want our loved ones to inherit will be actioned according to our wishes.

The number of people who have established a digital Will is growing but the speed of technological change is accelerating faster. We have much to do to get the message across to the wider community about the need to ensure a digital legacy is in place while the opportunity to do so exists.

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The digital filing cabinet

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What would you rather have: all your files and records stored neatly away in filing cabinets, desk drawers, shelf racks and document boxes, or digitised and stored in a virtual filing cabinet (the Cloud) that can be accessed from anywhere, not just in your office?

Some from the “old school” will prefer the former but most will, no doubt, choose the latter. Online data storage services are rapidly becoming the preferred method for storing important material.

Amongst many other things, the digital era has heralded fast bandwidth, mobile computing and inexpensive and abundant online storage, all of which have radically changed the way we live and work.

Having important files and documents stored on a virtual server means that staff needing to access this material are no longer limited by location. Provided there is an Internet connection they can work from anywhere. It also means that they can share files efficiently with others.

The opponents of online data storage services will argue that the treat of a cyberattack is a major issue when using remote servers. Protagonists, on the other hand, will point out that cybercriminals are a continuous threat to everyone, irrespective of whether firms use inhouse or remote servers. However, since cloud-based organisations will generally have people whose sole focus is data security, this should not be a major issue.

Furthermore, champions of online data storage will also argue that firms that use physical devices to back up their computers put their data at risk. In virtually every case the process is manual.

That said, opponents do have a valid point on one very important issue: digital asset legacy. With hard-copy records, virtually everything is traceable. But that may not be the case with digital assets.

Online subscriptions, for example, may continue to accrue charges if the owner of such subscriptions dies and leaves no record (or no easily accessible record) for others to act on.

Online bank accounts can also be at risk in the event the holder of the account dies or becomes permanently incapacitated. Whilst any funds in the account are unlikely to be lost, the bank could close the online facility on notification of the holder’s death. This could make things very difficult for firms using online banking in the running of the business, particularly where the account was established by one person registering their username and password.

With many of us today having several online accounts with different service providers, accessing and storing data on several devices – laptops, smartphones, tablets etc – our digital trail can be long. With technology advancing faster than the formulation of new laws that address the issue of digital property, these assets may not necessarily comply with the same legal characteristics as physical assets.

A positive step is to ensure proper care is taken over their protection, not by including them in a Will (which can be awkward given, amongst other reasons, the often rapidly changing nature of digital assets) but by developing a specific digital estate plan and registering that plan with a digital estate management organisation.

For those not taking proper care of their digital legacy, Woody Allen’s quip might be highly relevant: “This year I’m a star, but what will I be next year? A black hole?”

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Choosing a legacy friend

 

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Google’s Inactivity Manager was launched only two years ago, yet it seems to have triggered a fast forward button making us all the more aware of the need to protect and ensure the succession of our digital assets.

Facebook recently stepped in and seem to be keen to take on the mantel of caring for our digital assets with the launch of their Facebook legacy. Contacts are able to manage accounts in a way that can turn the deceased person’s Facebook page into a kind of digital gravestone. Legacy contacts can write a post to display at the top of their friend’s memorialised profile page, change the friend’s profile picture, and even respond to new friend requests on behalf of the deceased.

Being a legacy contact is different from simply logging into the account of the deceased, and there are important things legacy contacts can’t alter. They can’t edit what the deceased has already posted, or what his or her friends post on the page. In effect Facebook’s legacy contact is generating a new role for friends to accept and it should not be taken lightly.

Given Facebook’s role in so many peoples lives, choosing a legacy contact looks set to be as important as selecting an executor. In fact it could be argued that the role may be more emotionally demanding and may even go on for much longer. Tying this into your estate no longer seems as far fetched as it once used to either.

It does raise a number of salient questions too – first of which is why maintain a social network after death? As it turns out, research has confirmed that managing a loved-one’s social media site is a good way of coming to terms with their death. Yet this does bring forth the next question which is who to choose? Unlike selecting an executor for a Will who is generally speaking assisted by a solicitor, being a legacy contact is a whole new role which will no doubt throw up some unexpected issues as it becomes embedded into our digital culture. There will be those who may feel hurt they have not been picked, parents who may feel overlooked if a friend is selected, not to mention the thorny issue of how well everyone feels the appointed legacy contact is undertaking their role.

It is early days, so no doubt these issues will get ironed out as they occur, but in the meantime we should all give careful consideration to who we would like to appoint to take on this role and then we need to consider all our other digital assets and decide how best to pass these along too! one thing is for sure, we need to manage all our digital assets as soon as possible, check out how Planned Departure can help you do this…

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Digital twilight

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Cancer Research have just finished trialing a world first concept which they claim could shift fundraising from collection boxes and ‘chuggers’ to an entirely new level. The charity partnered with Clear Channel to implement a campaign which enables customers who walk past Cancer Research outlets in Brighton, Kensington, Guildford or Marylebone to tap their card on the contactless payment point on the window to donate a fixed fee of £2.

It seems like every day brings a new digital advantage into our lives, enabling us to interact, consume and communicate in easier, more streamlined ways. For each new digital asset however, comes the increasingly pressing need to ensure we are managing our digital assets more effectively.

As Gary Rycroft, a member of the Law Society Wills and Equity Committee, recently outlined during a BBC Radio 5 Live interview, leaving a digital legacy now needs to be taken very seriously. Rycroft recommended leaving a Will that takes into account a person’s  wishes regarding their personal online accounts. As he highlighted, this is the only way to ensure that loved ones know where and what the accounts are, and that they know what to do with them.

Rycroft concluded the interview explaining that “it’s our job as solicitors to tell our clients that they need to think about these things,” as a consequence there is an ongoing project at the Law Society to give advice to the profession on how best to do this.

As the likes of Cancer Research look for new ways to attract funding by making the payment process easy and rapid, children’s charity bibic are actively looking at new ways of attracting legacies and have shifted their focus to digital legacies which they believe will help boost funding.

Protecting, storing, passing on and safeguarding our digital legacies are giving rise to new needs, the likes of which Planned Departure are anticipating and managing for hundreds of clients.

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Launch: Digital legacy of your emails – who should get what?

Emails have become our primary medium of communication. From utility bills to bank statements and share certificates – everything is delivered via email. It is estimated that on and average, there are over 8000 emails in our inboxes. That’s a lot of emails.

Now, pause for a moment and think – how much time do you spend on searching for or organising these emails? Also, what would happen if your email account is locked for any reason and you need to access to a critical email? Or would you want your family to access your entire inbox or just specific emails when you are not around?

Our new asset type solves interesting problems like these. With our new ‘Inbox’ asset type, You can

  1. Save time because you will no longer need to search for emails in your inbox. Or upload important information manually in Planned Departure.
  2. Ensure that you have access to your critical emails even if you do not have access to your inbox for any reason
  3. Distribute specific emails to specific beneficiaries instead of giving access to the entire inbox.

It takes less than 10 secs to get started with this new feature – just forward your important emails to secure@planneddeparture.com – that’s it ! Done!

Our automated process will add emails you forward to your account and will notify you within 10 minutes! As easy as that. You don’t even have to login to Planned Departure to add information in your account!

Please have a look at our landing page for this feature

Landing page for emails

And start forwarding your emails to see this feature in action.

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