Do you realize you will generate roughly 88 GB of data in your lifetime?
What will happen to this data about YOU when you are no longer around?
Our guest post is from Deborah Gonzolez, Esq., founder of Law2sm, LLC, a new legal consulting firm focusing on helping its clients navigate the legal issues relating to the new digital and social media world.
Something New for the New Year: Plan Your Digital Legacyby Deborah Gonzalez, Esq.
January – the first month of a year that is still new and shiny and holds lots of promise. It is also the time to prepare ourselves to fulfill the potential of that promise. But there is one area few individuals think about or are even aware of – their digital legacy. Have you thought about yours? If not, you might be wondering what is a digital legacy, if I don’t know what it is I probably don’t have one, or I don’t have to deal with it now.
Your digital legacy is the combination of your many points of digital interaction in the online space – including financial accounts, social media accounts, content you posted online, online subscriptions, online photo collections, and more. Do you know the access information to all these accounts? Does your spouse know for the personal accounts and/or does your partner know for the business accounts or will it all be lost when you are no longer around? When you are gone who will inherit your digital property? Do you want to control who does and what they do with it?
It is estimated that most individuals in developed countries will create approximately 88 GB of data in their lifetime. This includes Twitter tweets, Facebook posts, bookmarks, photos, artwork, logos, videos, blogs, email, etc. It is also estimated that less than 35% of Americans have a will, trust or power of attorney, to take care of their things when they pass. What then will happen to all this digital property? If not prepared for, these digital possessions, expressions, artifacts, become lost, closed down, deleted, or removed. We don’t want that because these digital assets chronicle life, history, identity, and wealth. They have value – some financial, some chronological, some emotional. But value is something YOU want to protect.
A note of caution – there may be a lot of YOU out there. Consider doing some “curating” of your online presence – both for you and your company. Clean up some of the digital litter now to make it easier for others later. Evan Carroll and John Romano put it nicely in their book,Your Digital Afterlife, “the things you value simply may not be valuable to your heirs.”
Remember too that this process can help you while you are alive as well – to identify lost accounts, or put all the information in one place for quick reference. Do you know where you are online? Doing the plan may surprise you.
DIGITAL LEGACY PLAN
Make a list. Inventory all your digital devices, online accounts, subscriptions, etc. Make sure to note name of account, site or company account is with, access codes such as an id or password, answers to security questions, expiration and renewal dates for domains, etc.
Review the list and note next to each what you want done with each account when you pass away – should it be deleted, should the password be given to a spouse, should it be converted to a memorial page (such as in Facebook), etc.?
Review the list a second time and find and read the Terms of Service for the online accounts. Do they permit the access information to be transferred or not? What do they need to close the account a=or transfer it – such as a death certificate, obituary, etc.
Think about appointing a Digital Executor and speak with them about what you would like them to do. This can be a lot of responsibility – make sure you select someone you trust, who is technologically savvy, and won’t mind the work.
Review your digital plan with an attorney. Keep in mind that some of your digital property, like your tangible property, may be subject to state laws covering succession and distribution. Just a few states, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Idaho, already have specific legislation dealing with online accounts. The rest of the states do not.
Put the list away in a safe place or use an online service, such as Entrustet, Legacy Locker, etc. Do not put the list in your will, as this becomes a public document after your death and you do not want your passwords available for all to see.
Keep the list updated with new accounts, disabled or terminated accounts, and changes of passwords.
Talk to who needs to know about this – your spouse, business partner, child, significant other.
SOME DIGITAL ASSEST TYPES
Accounts with Credit Card Information (Amazon, Lands End, etc.)
Adult Content Accounts
Airline frequent Flyer Mile Accounts
Bank & Financial Accounts
Computers, laptops, tables, and cell phones (technology devices)
E-bay; Craigslist; iTunes, etc.
Lifestyle Specific Accounts (Ancestry.com, Food.tv, etc.)
Medical and Generic Information Accounts
Online and Social Games (Farmville, WII, Words with Friends, Second Life, WOW)
Deborah Gonzalez, Esq., founder of Law2sm, LLC, a new legal consulting firm focusing on helping its clients navigate the legal issues relating to the new digital and social media world.
Deborah graduated from New York Law School in 1997. Following graduation, she built a successful boutique practice in New York City, focusing on the arts, music and entertainment scene. In 2008 she was granted reciprocity to practice law in Georgia.
Deborah’s practice has taken her from an inner-city arts community center in NYC to a sidewalk café in Eastern Europe; from preparing programs for diplomats in the EU to assisting medical missions with refugee communities in Thailand; from protecting against music piracy in the US to protecting against bio-piracy in South America. And now it is transporting her beyond the Internet to the social space where the physical and digital dimensions of her clients co-exist and where she can leverage her legal expertise to their benefit.
Deborah enjoys engaging with those around her – so social media is a natural fit. But it is her skill in being able to connect the dots to understand the next big paradigm shift in global communication and legal application that makes her a leader in social media law.