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A digital life after death

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Digital Footprint

The common thread shared among Walt Disney, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears goes well beyond entertainment.

They are all clients of a non-profit company that researches, advocates for and performs cryonics. That is, the preservation of humans in liquid nitrogen after death with hopes of restoring them to full health when new technology is developed in the future.

This is just one of the more recent examples in mankind’s endless search for eternal life. But, in a roundabout manner, anyone with a laptop, smartphone and internet connection readily collects enough email addresses, passwords, hashtags, likes and PIN numbers to make it seem as if they’re figuratively frozen in ice.

Everyone has a digital footprint

Consider for a moment your own virtual footprint. At a minimum, there’s likely to be at least one or two social media accounts via Facebook or Twitter. Your bank accounts are almost certain to have online access, and perhaps there’s also a few hundred dollars in a Neteller wallet for the odd flutter on eBay. That’s before you even consider the personal data you have stored on the desktop at home, or on the iPad that never leaves your side.

These elements are an indelible part of our lives, but precious few of us consider the implications of these digital alter-egos as part of their formal estate planning.

Digital Wills and social media

Digital Wills are now being made available through respected organisations so people can ensure their online legacy lives – or fades – according to their wishes. The suggested check-list for those considering a digital Will includes:

  • What are your digital assets? Make a detailed and accurate list.
  • Who do you want to look after and deal with your digital assets after your death?
  • Where are your digital assets, who can access them and what passwords or other access controls (such as encryption, etc.) are required?
  • Which sites do you want to continue or close after your death? Are there any saved items you don’t want deleted (such of photos or videos)?

The expertise of a Digital Will maker also helps friends and family negotiate the minefield of terms and conditions that the majority of us accept with a tick of a box.

For example, some sites like Amazon do not provide any information on how to close the account of deceased users. iTunes is another grey area. No substantial law exists to say whether you really own the content forever, or just while you are alive.

These considerations are even more important for residents of Australia. While the right of publicity ceases when you die as a resident of most countries, no laws currently exist in Australia to grant a Will’s executor automatic access to someone’s social media accounts.

Storing your digital identity

In addition to Digital Wills, a popular alternative is to store important documents and passwords in an online vault. Businesses including SecureSafe and Legacy Lockbox offer secure online storage of passwords and documents. Password management accounts can also be set-up using software such as Norton Identity Safe while Google recently introduced a new program called Inactive Account Manager, which enables you to choose how you wish your Google data to be managed.

Perhaps these alternatives will be enough for the likes of Ms Hilton and Ms Spears to steer away from a trip to the liquid nitrogen tanks.

If you haven't given this much thought, we recommend you put something in place soon.

 

 

Don't know where to start?

For more help and strategies on taking care of your financial plans, speak to your adviser at SFP. Or if you don't have an adviser yet let us arrange an appointment, contact us on 02 9328 0876.

 

This article contains information that is general in nature. It does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. You need to consider your financial situation and needs before making any decisions based on this information.

 

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