Like millions of people worldwide, you may have email, social media accounts, photos, and business data stored on your computer, smart phone, and in the cloud. These digital assets are an increasingly integral part of your daily life.
Heirlooms like multimedia and financial assets are created and stored by Internet sites and cloud-based services that may not be accessible to your loved ones after you’re gone. That makes it important to inventory, manage, and preserve your digital assets, and those of your loved ones.
Good organization, inventory, secure storage, and planning are essential to creating your digital estate plan. You can then make informed decisions about your final digital asset wishes, and secure your digital legacy.
Your devices serve as keys to your email, social presence, business, and financial accounts. As you create your digital estate plan, identify and inventory your devices and the content stored on them first. Consider organizing your digital assets into these categories:
- Computers and devices: content from desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones
- Email: content from incoming, sent, and stored messages
- Content from social network channels like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and others
- Online businesses including online stores, blogs, and websites, including PayPal, eBay, and Etsy
- Multimedia content from Shutterfly, Snapfish, Flickr, Instagram, and other digital content sites
Now make a thorough inventory of your digital assets. For a template, go to: www.yourdigitalafterlife.com/resources.
When making your inventory, do these things:
- List both personal devices and Internet accounts.
- The shift to cloud-based storage makes locating personal content more challenging. List all digital content accounts and sources. List your own devices also – they may contain exclusive personal data.
- List devices and the digital files separately.
You can consider the future owner of a device separate from its contents. Files can be shared among different loved ones.
Communicate and provide access to your heirs: Clearly communicate your wishes for your devices and digital content to your loved ones, digital executor and/or heirs. Provide the physical location, usernames, and passwords for all devices and accounts. Remember that access to data and preservation are different concepts. Your heirs may have access to your digital content after you pass away, but this does not ensure its future preservation.
- Keep business and personal files separate. Your employer may choose to repurpose your work device.
Finally, back up all of your devices to safeguard your digital content. You can then secure your digital legacy by choosing how your final wishes will be carried out – by your loved ones for example. For more help managing your digital assets, go to: www.passare.com.
Digital asset technology is evolving to help you create a permanent online archive of your digital life that could exist well beyond your physical life. The Internet can’t make you immortal, but with planning, your digital legacy could have an enduring afterlife.
Evan Carroll is a user experience designer, author and speaker from Raleigh, NC. He is co-founder of The Digital Beyond, a blog and think tank devoted to digital afterlife and legacy issues.
To learn more about him, visit the Digital Beyond.