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Are Your Digital Assets Really Yours?

by guestauthor on July 12, 2011

In 2004, Yahoo made headlines when the company denied the family of a fallen Marine access to his email account. Yahoo does allow survivors to access accounts of the deceased, but they need a court order and a death certificate, and those conditions were met in the case of the Marine; his family finally received a CD-ROM with pertinent account files. In an age where we put much of our lives online, it can come as a shock to realize that our emails, uploaded photos and videos, and status updates aren’t really “ours.” It’s pretty obvious that the digital assets (files) you store on your computer, or on some other device that you own, belong to you. But the distinction gets a little fuzzy when it comes to social networking and emails. After all, I may have a personal blog at Blogger, but it’s hosted by someone else. Is it really my stuff I’m writing? Many web sites consider that you have a license to use their services. If you die, that license expires — and your survivors may not have the right to your information without jumping through some serious hoops.

Digital Assets Are Your Digital Assets Really Yours?

Passing On Your Digital Assets

You should have a way to pass on your digital life if you should die. Most obvious, you want your heirs to be able to access documents that might be stored on your computer under password protection. With so many people reducing their paper clutter, it’s becoming increasingly common to store digital copies of information. You will need to let someone you trust know about this arrangement — as well as tell them how to access the information. On top of that, it might be a good idea to let them know usernames and passwords for your social networking accounts and your email accounts. That way, if you want to make sure that your Flickr photos are available to your friends and family, someone you trust can access the account after you pass on. Part of the problem comes in when family members of the deceased try to get access to the account by explaining the situation. However, once the death certificate is presented as proof of the death, it might be fight not to just have the account erased. Providing your survivors with the information they need to access your account might be an elegant solution. (Although, at some point, the service provider will need to be notified about the death).

Where to Keep the Information

Of course, you don’t want all of your usernames and passwords to fall into the wrong hands. And you might not want people peeking into your account while you’re still alive. You can keep your usernames and passwords stored on a flash drive or piece of paper in a safe or safety deposit box. Let your spouse, attorney or the executor of your will know where the information is stored, and how to get at it. Just as you want to have a list of your financial assets, you will also want a list of your digital assets. Plus, your survivors might need access to your Mint account, or your online stock broker account. With so much happening online, you can’t afford to not think about what you want to have happen to digital property, accounts and other information after you pass.

Author Bio: Miranda Marquit writes for PT Money: Personal Finance, where you can find the lastest information about banking rates, brokerage accounts, and credit cards, including the best credit cards for college students.

For Further Reading:

  1. Using Electronic Digital Signage To Boost Your Business
  2. The Digital Age Of Politics
  3. iPhone 4 : Let’s Forget About Digital Cameras
  4. Consumer Behaviour Change in the Face of New Technology

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