Recently Jerry and I were featured in an article about what happens to digital assets after we die. Orlando Sentinel writer Kate Santich was reporting on Florida State Sen. Dorothy Hukill’s proposed legislation to deal with digital life after death.

Click here to read the article and see the video online; click here to see a pdf version of the article if the online version has been archived.

We think the real question is broader: What happens to your digital property or digital identity if you can’t manage it yourself for any reason, not just after death?

Think about it:

  • You could experience a short- or long-term illness or disability that prevents you from accessing your social media and other online accounts. According to the Council for Disability Awareness, over 1 in 4 of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before they retire.
  • You may want to take an extended vacation and not worry about your online identity during that time (I know, that’s probably unlikely for most of us, but I’m sure it happens).
  • An accident or some type of disaster could leave you unable to get online for a variety of reasons, including physical injuries or infrastructure damage.

This is about more than your Facebook, Twitter or other social media accounts — although those are important, especially if you depend on them for professional networking. And it’s about more than your online banking and bill paying services.

Consider what might happen to your PayPal and other online payment services accounts that you use to both send and receive funds, your blog or website if you have one, business activities hosted on third-party sites such as eBay, your various rewards programs and even your email.

Sharing log-in information and passwords with someone you trust is a good first step but not a total solution. In the Sentinel article, Sen. Hukill points out that the fine print of user agreements often prohibits access to accounts by anyone except the original user, even if you have the password.

Beyond basic access is the question of what to do with the digital property. Of course, that will vary widely depending on the type of account and its value. But it’s a decision you should make for yourself rather than leaving it to others.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and the solution you find today might not be sufficient a few years from now as technology continues to evolve. But it’s worth taking some time now to make sure your virtual identity is protected in the present and in your afterlife.

Join the conversation. Share your thoughts about what to do with your digital assets if you can’t manage them yourself.

Jacquelyn Lynn
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