Digital Wills


Written on April 26, 2013 – 9:04 am | by Paul Fensom

In the past, I have blogged about digital assets as well as the ever increasing number of password protected digital footprints. For Estate representatives, digital assets will be difficult to find, let alone access.
One trend that seems to be emerging is to appoint a ‘Digital Executor’ to deal with specific digital assets and social media accounts under the terms of a ‘Digital Will’. The purpose of a Digital Will is to have a testamentary document which describes your digital assets and provides directions as to who should receive ownership and/or access to these assets. For example, the governing document could direct that any photos stored on Picasa be given to a specific family member or, assets held in a PayPal account be transferred to a spouse or, a proprietary web-site be turned over to a business partner. In addition the Digital Will could provide direction as to what is to be done with social media accounts. Of course, one would also need to be aware of the terms and conditions of the digital service provider. 

The U.S. government has even weighed in on this subject. They released a Blog on ‘How and Why You Should Write a Social Media Will’. This U.S. government blog post explains that it would be the responsibility of the on-line executor to operate and/or close down e-mail accounts and social media accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter.

This doesn’t change the fact that the Digital Executor would need to know which accounts exist and what passwords are required to access such accounts. Google, however, has recently launched its’ solution; the “Inactive Account Manager”.  Through your Google account you can now set-up a ‘time-out period’ which, I understand can range from a couple of months to a year, since you last accessed your account. Just prior to the end of the time-out period a reminder e-mail is sent to you about signing-in to your account. If by the end of the time-out period you have still not signed into your account, then information is automatically sent to your pre-designated contact(s). This notification will advise your contact(s) of the existence of the account as well as share data with them about the account or alternatively provide confirmation that the account and everything in it has been deleted, depending on the instructions you left.

Have a happy and active weekend.

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