Secure Your Digital Legacy By Planning Ahead

On the 31st of July PlannedDeparture was featured as a guest blogger on ‘Digital Beyond’ page. We thought we would share that piece with you also.

On July 16th Yahoo Japan launched an end-of-life service called Yahoo Ending. It offers various services such as farewell messages, funeral planning and removal of relevant yahoo accounts.

Once Yahoo receives official notice of the subscribers passing it takes these steps.  Deletes all information stored on the company’s system and cancel’s the deceased’s subscriptions. Yahoo Endings will also launch a tribute site after the subscriber’s death. The tribute site serves as a memorial space. It hosts user’s memories, pictures, biography, messages, video messages, and a playlist of favourite music in the deceased’s honour.

According to The Cultureist 2,405,518,376 people use the Internet worldwide and seventy percent of those use the Internet every day. This number has grown 566% since the year 2000.

Why are these figures important?

The Internet plays a major role in most of our lives without us realising it. We store immense amount of information from our personal and professional lives online.

Our email accounts, utility bills, insurance policies, social media pages, digital albums, online bank accounts are some of the examples of our growing digital footprint.

We collect various items as we grow at different stages of our lives. What used to be a collection of stories, an archive of classic movies or a stack of letters is now digital in our growing age of technology. With the help of our smartphones, laptops and tablets everything is now stored digitally.  Stacks of letters are now emails, story collections are now eBooks and classic movies are now stored online. What happens to all these when the inevitable happens?

Continuous digitization and penetration of Internet in our everyday life has made our digital assets valuable. Like other valuable things, we have to manage our digital assets should during our life and protected after we pass away. In the absence of appropriate planning and protection, these digital assets can become an easy target for identity thieves. Identities of approximately 2.5 million deceased Americans got stolen last year.  It created a huge financial and emotional burden for people related to the deceased to deal with.

Yahoo, like many other major companies, is realizing the importance of digital legacy. The Uniform Laws Commission recently endorsed a plan to give personal representatives control of digital assets.

The plan, is not law until adopted and approved by state legislators. It would allow heirs to access and control digital assets. Unless instructions are otherwise specified in a will or other estate-planning instrument.

The ULC effort is a step in right direction, yet many individuals may want more control of their digital assets. For instance, you may want to distribute your digital assets to right beneficiaries with your instructions for them. Many individuals need a comprehensive digital estate plan to deal with this problem.

The emerging state laws in the U.S. and services such as Yahoo Ending and Google’s Inactivity Account Manager are good steps in the right direction. Individuals still need to take action.

I believe estate planning for digital assets will continue to become mainstream and independent organizations such as Planned Departure will try and serve the needs of this growing market.

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