Protecting Your Digital Property

By guest writer Laura Lucas of Big Picture Research

I first heard the phrase “digital legacy” a year-and-a-half ago, where it was touted as one of the ten new industries to watch. A digital legacy suggests we need to plan and give direction about digital assets like passwords, financial accounts and social media accounts so they can be easily found and seamlessly handed over to loved ones or an executor upon our death.

Whether you call it “legacy” or “succession”, this type of planning is not restricted to estates. It’s also important for business owners, especially in planning for emergencies. What if you were incapacitated in some way or travelling and out of reach for a long period of time? What if you were looking to sell or merge your company or take on a partner? How do you share all the intangibles locked in your computer or phone?

Think about how much of our lives now play out online. We communicate through email, social media and video chats. We shop, we bank, we watch and we listen online. There’s no paper trail. We used to put everything in a filing cabinet or a box in the closet. If anything happened, someone was likely to find it eventually. Can we still say that now?

Today, valuable data is collecting in the cloud, on our phones, tablets and computers. We need to think about our digital legacy and plan ahead so that it can be accessed in an emergency.

What’s a digital asset? The list is growing but here are a few examples: banking, eBay or PayPal accounts, loyalty memberships, crypto currency, domain names, websites, blogs, photos, magazine subscriptions, artwork, logos, client files, invoices and social media accounts like Google+ and Facebook.

Financial assets have a value and a cost to them as debts can accrue if nobody knows about them or can’t gain access to them. Websites and blogs are the face of our companies, while social media accounts are an extension of us and our business. Who will carry on managing these properties?

Let’s not forget sentimental assets like photos, videos, books and music. Depending on the download agreement, you may be renting or own them, but if you paid for them they may be valuable in an estate.

To date we’ve been told never to write down passwords or share PIN numbers but until the law catches up with technology, we need to be responsible. So what can you do? Some ideas to protect your information include: create an encrypted spreadsheet of information, draft a paper record, then fold and laminate it shut and place in a safe or safety deposit box. Store your digital inventory in one place with one master key password in another. Protect your identity from theft by directing whether you want social media accounts closed, maintained or to serve as a memorial. But above all, give yourself peace of mind. Create a digital estate plan and tell somebody you trust!

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