Planned Departure – Leave memories … not a mess

Planned Departure is all about planning well in life so that you leave memories and not a mess!

It is about starting the conversation and answering some important questions such as:

  • Is your life plan ready?
  • How do you want to plan for your family?
  • Offer the best education?
  • Or gift them happiness?
  • Or hope things will eventually fall in place?
  • Have you taken any financial advice?
  • Do you have life insurance or critical illness cover?
  • Or Do you have a Will in place?
  • Have you started the important conversation?
  • Such as where all your documents are?
  • Or shared your secret recipe?
  • Does your family know your assets and investments?
  • Or your liabilities!
  • Are they aware of important online accounts?
  • Can your family find everything they need?
  • Even when you are not around?
  • Will you leave them CHAOS ? Or Mess?
  • Or Will you leave them memories?
  • Have you planned for everything? or anything?

Now you can!!

With Planned Departure,

  • Organise scattered information in one place.
  • Leave clear instructions.
  • Put everything in order.
  • Ensure everything is there even when you are not.

We can help you avoid the mess

So that you can focus on creating memories.
Planned Departure – Leave memories… not a mess!

Sign up now and start planning.

Why your Skype credits could be lost – Forever!

Recently Facebook released its legacy contact feature in the UK. This is a welcome move by Facebook and highlights the importance of ‘digital legacy’.

However, our digital life and digital footprint goes beyond Facebook and Google. We have pointed out the enormous difficulties loved ones can face trying to unravel their deceased’s digital property. 

While Louise Palmer’s story is still fresh in our minds, story of Susan Rowan is surfacing digital legacy problems with another internet giant – Skype.

Susan tried to sort out her husband’s financial affairs after he died of cancer in January. She tried to close his online accounts but was faced with a long painful process of dealing with customer support centres of the online services.

Her experience with Skype left her feeling distressed. To begin with, it was difficult for Susan to contact their customer service over the phone. She had to use web chat and then they refused to refund £25.46 credit to her.

There are many more such cases of family members getting affected by lack of access to digital accounts.

At Planned Departure, our vision is to empower individual to take control of digital life and digital legacy.

The media coverages and now solution from Facebook are helpful in promoting the cause of digital legacy. The UK Law Society has advised people to leave a digital legacy after death, and an increasing number of lawyers are becoming vocal on the same issue.

There is still a long way to go and we need your support!

Please join Planned Departure or contact us for offering digital legacy solution to your clients.

Life in the Cyberlane – Are you taking care of your properties from the cyber world?

Oh how things have changed.

Around 600 BC, Athenian statesman and law maker, Solon, was credited with the introduction into Greek law of wills. Prior to this, no man in Greece was allowed to make a will; all his assets at death belonged to his family. The terms of Solon’s law bear much resemblance to what we have under UK law today.

It wasn’t until the early 1990s, some 2,500 years on, that the real winds of change were about to have a fundamental impact on our personal assets. And the origins of these winds? Cyberspace!

But let’s go back just a few years to the early 1980s when these winds were little more than just a soft breeze. Microsoft ruled the world, our computers being largely DOS-based and essentially stand-alone word processors. The World Wide Web, emails, social media, Second Life and fiat currencies were all at least a decade or more away.

With the introduction of Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web in 1993, that early breeze started to gather intensity. The computer slowly evolved from a word processor into an Internet portal that became the primary means of people interacting with the world around them.

The turn of the second millennium and the spinnakers are up and the sails are full as we race into the digital era. Not only are we now using keyboard and mouse to connect with the world at large, but the introduction of VoIP has meant that even telephone services are transmitted over the Internet. I’m sure the song made famous by jazz musician Louis Armstrong in 1968, “What a Wonderful World”, was not based on the world that was beginning to dominate our lives.

Indeed, for many of us, the transformation into the Cyberworld was so subtle that we didn’t even realise what was happening around us – until there was a power failure!

The Internet has become such an integral part of our lives that it’s inconceivable to think that we could do anything, professionally or personally, without it. And therein lies a conundrum.

Solon set the scene for the disposal of our assets in accordance with our wishes following death, but in the Cyberworld in which we now reside, we have a number of very different asset classes. We are accumulating vastly more digital assets than we are physical assets and the legal system that should effectively deal with these types of assets is woefully behind the times.

Probate as arrived in Cyberspace but there are few who are capable of taking care of its inhabitants. In fact, such is the pace of technological change that many lawyers are suggesting the legal system may never catch up.

Does it really matter that the law is not up-to-date with regard to probate and digital assets? Without addressing specifics, having a will should cover all our assets – both physical and digital – should it not? The answer to the first question is an absolute YES and the answer to the second, sadly, is no.

As in the real world, life in Cyberspace varies and each decedent is going to present numerous challenges for the surrogate/executor and his or her legal advisors. As we have said in the past, just determining what online accounts a decedent has can be the first major challenge. Even when these accounts have beed identified, access to them will need to be gained.

Being an inanimate object, the computer is not able to make a rational judgement as to whether a user should have access to the privilege being requested (accessing files for example). For many of us, security revolves around the use of passwords. So, without a human to monitor the transaction, the assumption is made that if the user has the right password, then the user is the person who he or she claims to be – or at least has been duly authorised by the legitimate owner of the password.

With online accounts we use passwords and other security tools to protect our valuable property. In many cases, terms and conditions relating to usernames and passwords make it binding on the individual not to share these with anyone else.

In a study by private banking organisation US Trust, it was reported that of the wealthiest respondents, almost 50 percent regularly change their passwords to protect anything stored electronically. Probate estate may not always be required, but in many cases estate administration lawyers are suggesting that it would be desirable to establish one in order to give the personal representative of the decedent access to cyber property.

The most effective way for people to protect their digital estates is not in a conventional will, but in a digital will allows individuals to inventory all their digital assets, including usernames, passwords and postmortem instructions. A digital surrogate or executor is named by the asset owner and this person is subsequently provided access to the digital property upon satisfactory provision of proof of death or permanent incapacity. The digital executor can then download, delete or provide to beneficiaries such assets in accordance with the instructions of the decedent.

Would Solon be turning in his grave if he could see the position of our laws today regarding wills? You can bet your last Bitcoin he would!

What exactly are we leaving behind?

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A couple of days ago, the BBC’s legal correspondent, Clive Coleman, wrote a captivating story about Louise Palmer’s struggle with Facebook to maintain access to her daughter’s social media account. Becky sadly died in 2010 from a brain tumour.

Mother and daughter were very close and when Becky was ill and lost both speech and movement, Louise would log in with her daughter to help Becky stay in touch with her friends.

Louise said that not only was losing a child the worst loss there is, she also became very fearful that other people were going to forget Becky too. Having the ability to go onto Becky’s Facebook page and read what people have put on her wall was comforting for Louise.

However, with regard to Becky’s Facebook account, Mrs Palmer told Mr Coleman: “I’m her mum and this was her Facebook page, and its contents I felt were my legacy. Her online stuff should now be mine to be able to access.”

Facebook did not agree.

Time can be a great healer but, for some, that time can be interminable.

Louise Palmer’s story is not unique. Almost every week a story appears in the press about the difficulty parents have in accessing their deceased children’s social media accounts. Organisations such as Facebook, Twitter and others justifiably have stringent security rules. It’s a new frontier, however, and as a result it’s become something of a legal minefield.

The UK Law Society has strongly advised people to leave a digital legacy after death, and an increasing number of lawyers are becoming very vocal on the same issue.

Yet, it’s one thing to stress the need for a digital legacy, it’s quite another to know just what it is that we may be leaving behind, and exactly what we want others to do with it. Physical property is much easier than digital property to put a value on and that’s one reason we have found for people delaying their digital legacy.

However, when we have pointed out the enormous difficulties loved ones can face trying to unravel their deceased’s digital property, the need becomes much less blurry.

At Planned Departure  we believe we still have a long way to go, but the more media coverage the issue of digital legacies receive, the more aware everyone will be of the need to adequately secure their digital assets.

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

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?

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.

The digitisation effect

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The process of digitisation continues to expand, and as a consequence the link between physical geographic location and the ability to adequately set rules that apply to individuals and property is being eradicated. Facebook’s recent move towards storing passwords and usernames  is yet more proof that virtually every aspect of life (both business and personal) is becoming captured and stored in some digital form. Which is why the protection of our digital assets is rapidly becoming a major issue. In the UK alone, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that the value of digital assets is in the region of £25 billion. And that figure is set to grow exponentially.

Digital assets are defined as any property that can be found in a digital format. These include, amongst others: registered domain names (whether active or not), websites, email accounts, online bank accounts, passwords, social media accounts, databases, digital contracts and receipts, Frequent Flyer miles, financial spreadsheets, tax statements, fiat currencies such as Linden dollars and Bitcoins. They can also include electronic representations of tangible personal property.

In the vast majority of cases, people pay scant regard to the protection of these assets. In comparison with physical property they are a challenge because they are more dynamic and, in many instances, transitory.

Consider for a moment how many physical things we create in a lifetime in comparison with how many emails we write, the number of digital photos we download from our smart phones and the volumes of data we generate both online and offline. And of the latter, how many of these are converted into hard copies? Very little if any. They remain firmly entrenched in cyberspace.

In business, the issue of digital asset protection tends to relate primarily to customer data security. Cyberdefense strategies and tactics have helped address common threats from a cyberattack but they don’t address the issue of digital legacy.

Customer data security is just one aspect of digital asset protection. Whilst we continue to manufacture, sell and control tangible goods, the digital era has created new symbolic forms of economic exchange that have no physical presence. Even the representation of money is no longer required. It is now possible to acquire and exchange digital things without a physical presence of any kind.

It is here that the issue of digital asset protection can become complex. We use passwords and other security tools to protect our most valuable and sensitive property. In many cases, terms and conditions relating to usernames and passwords make it binding on the individual not to share these with anyone else.

Interestingly, in a recent study by private banking organisation US Trust, it was reported that of the wealthiest respondents, forty-six percent regularly change their passwords to protect anything stored electronically.

But what happens to that information when the owner of those usernames and passwords becomes permanently incapacitated or dies? What might the loss to a business be if workers are unable to access vital information required to ensure the ongoing operation of the firm?

Taking adequate measures to protect the company’s digital assets and maintaining control over these assets is actually protecting the business itself.

A good case study comes from solicitors Watson Mann. A close friend of senior partner Isobel Mann lost her husband (also a solicitor) suddenly,  leaving in his wake a digital trail that put his work colleagues and his family in considerable difficulty. Even though he had drawn up a Will, he had neglected the fact that most of his affairs were locked in a digital world only he had access to. He had taken adequate protection of his physical assets but not his digital property.

As Ms Mann explained, they were faced with a nightmare situation. With so many hidden trails, what were they to look for and where were they to start?

Ms Mann had to unravel and pick through her friend’s deceased husband’s digital assets to define those elements that were not only crucial to his business but also those that had sentimental and financial value to his family.

As Ms Mann noted, bank statements, for example, might come in the post: account balance, money received, bills paid – everything was traceable. In this digital era however, there may be no physical statements. Data are retained on a remote server accessible only by username and password.

When banks become aware that an account holder has died, they may freeze access to all online accounts as a precautionary measure to avoid fraud. This can cause serious issues for the deceased’s business by severely hampering the financial operations of the organisation.

According to Ms Mann, her friend was unable to access her husband’s online account because it had been set up by him using his registered username and password. Both were unknown to her.

Technology is advancing at a faster rate than the formulation of new laws that address the issue of digital assets. Even though they may be offered some protection in law, digital assets may not necessarily comply with the same legal characteristics as physical assets.

With the advent of the Internet new types of property have been created, some with similar characteristics to trademark rights but without inherent ties to the trademark law of any individual country. With cyberspace having no physical boundaries, defining rights in this new, valuable property presents a number of questions, including those relating to transferability, conditions for ownership, duration of ownership rights and forfeiture in the event of abandonment.

As Isobel Mann noted, if the owners of digital assets want them adequately protected and to generate maximum financial return for beneficiaries and future generations, it is essential that the digital assets that form part of the creator’s estate are taken into account during the estate planning process.

Even though the owners may have a written Will regarding their physical assets, Wills can be an awkward vehicle for digital assets. There are a number of reasons for this: the formality attendant to the execution of non-holographic wills, the often rapidly changing nature and ownership of digital assets, these assets may become outdated quickly as the asset disappears or takes a new form and it remains unclear whether service providers will respect the terms of Wills to transfer ownership of digital property.

Digital estate planners (or digital asset management services) allow individuals to inventory all of their digital assets, including usernames, passwords and postmortem instructions. A digital executor or verifier is named by the asset owner and this person is subsequently provided access to the digital property upon satisfactory provision of proof of death or permanent incapacity. The digital executor can then download, delete or provide to beneficiaries such assets in accordance with the instructions of the decedent.

Working in collaboration with law firms, digital asset management companies can provide a viable and cost-effective service for law firm clients.

First Google, and now Facebook is following our lead – Facebook rolls out feature for users when they die

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In 2013, Google launched it’s Inactivity Account Manager and at Planned Departure we crossed our fingers in the hope that other companies would start following suit. Which is why we are delighted to see that Facebook has followed the steps of Google and now offer this control to the user.

These steps which both Google and Facebook have taken are heading in the right direction, however, they are not sufficient. Our digital lives go way beyond the remit of Google and Facebook, who are obviously important but who in effect are only a minor part of our digital presence. Think about other online services we use – from communication to financial transactions, we now use numerous services which have become intrinsically tied to our day to day lives.

We should definitely have a lot more granular level control on what and how our accounts should be operated after we pass away. Like any other physical asset, as a creator of these digital assets, we should have the ability to specify who should get access to these accounts and what they should do with them.

People have the right to distribute whatever they own from their physical world, why can’t they do it from the digital world? This question and the problem we faced led us to the development of Planned Departure in the first place.

It is nice to see that mainstream organisations have now followed our lead and are solving this problem for their platforms. However, for an individual, we suggest they should think about their entire digital presence – not just Facebook and Google.

It is important to think about all the digital assets we possess, assign right beneficiaries for them and leave clear instructions for each and everything. It is important to have a planned departure in this digital age – otherwise, our data would stay locked or lost in this cyber-world forever!