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Online security

How to plan for the future of your online life

Every time you open a new account, send an email, snap a picture, book a flight, make a purchase or post a comment, you’re creating a new digital asset. Now it’s time to learn how to protect them.

What’s a digital asset?

Think of a digital asset as any information stored electronically, either online or on a device. This includes text, images, multimedia and personal property stored in a digital format – as well as any words, characters, codes or contractual rights necessary to access that digital content.

4 common types of digital assets

Information stored on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Digital assets that can include photos, videos, emails, music, and other information stored on your personal devices, as well as blogs, home security systems, loyalty programs, gaming assets, and usernames and passwords stored throughout your browser.

Login credentials, credit card numbers, and bank account information saved on online shopping sites, bill pay sites, such as PayPal, as well as virtual currencies and U.S. Savings Bonds.

Resources that can encompass domain names, blogs, patient/customer information, merchant seller information, intellectual property, and digital file storage.

Potential pitfalls

A great deal of confusion can occur when an owner is no longer able to manage his or her assets due to either incapacity or death. These are the main obstacles to be aware of.

Usernames and passwords

The fluid nature of usernames and passwords can be an obstacle if not addressed and continually updated as part of an overall digital roadmap.  Regularly update your passwords and ensure they’re complex enough to maintain the security of your digital information.

Encryption of digital assets

Encryption scrambles data, protecting it so one can’t make sense of it without knowing the password.  This security measure may complicate things for your heirs if they’re unable to locate the password.  Securely keep track of your credentials so that they’re readily available if you or your heirs need to log in on your behalf.

"Terms of service" agreements

When opening accounts, we click the button next to the words “I Agree” and thus agree to the Terms of Service contract, which governs your associated assets.  Your heirs may be bound to the same agreement.  Understand what you’re agreeing to so that you and your family know how your information will be affected.

Federal criminal laws

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) (18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2)) makes it a criminal offense to intentionally access a computer without authorization.  Understand how the legislature is set up to protect your assets.

Federal privacy laws

The Stored Communications Act (SCA) (18 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq.) creates privacy rights that protect the contents of certain electronic communications services or remote computing services.  Keep these laws in mind as you continue to protect your information and prepare to smoothly pass along information access to your heirs.

State laws

So far, few states have addressed the planning needs of digital assets.  Many of the states that have addressed this issue have laws that are unclear.  Stay in the know with policy changes so that you and your family can proactively preserve your assets.

Preparing for digital afterlife

The online world has become the center of our daily transactions. It's where we work, play and get together. Here are some questions to ask yourself about what happens to your digital life when you're no longer able to navigate it.

  • Have I prepared a digital roadmap for my family and others to follow?
  • Will my family/heirs know about the digital assets I've created and how to access them?
  • Will my family/heirs be able to manage my digital assets in a manner that meets my intended objectives?
  • What will happen to my digital legacy?

Have a guide to all your various assets, choose a digital steward to keep them safe and your family will have a digital roadmap to follow.

5 steps to plan for your digital assets

When it comes to digital assets, you can make things easier for your family/heirs by simplifying the work of your appointed agent or executor. In addition, planning ahead may help prevent losses to the estate while avoiding unexpected costs. Addressing your digital footprint will help ensure that your personal story remains alive while keeping any sensitive information protected. Consider these five steps:

  • Prepare a personal digital inventory (you can use our Digital Inventory Worksheet to get started).
  • Create a roadmap for your family
  • Be sure your digital inventory and roadmap are properly and securely stored.
  • Update and back up the digital inventory regularly.
  • Update your Power of Attorney and your Will to include your digital assets.

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