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Protecting Myself

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

Social
Information stored on social websites like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Personal
Photos, videos, emails, music, medical records, blogs, usernames and passwords, digital books, gaming assets, avatars, home security systems and loyalty programs.

Financial
Online shopping sites, PayPal, online bill pay, digital tax documents, credit card accounts, virtual currencies and U.S. Savings Bonds.

Business
Domain names, blogs, patient/customer information, eBay seller information, intellectual property, self-image and digital file storage.

What are your digital assets worth?

Monetary value
Airline miles or hotel points may have a nominal monetary value, while ownership in a domain name may have a more sizeable worth.

Sentimental value
Personal blogs, family histories, photo albums and family videos may carry more sentimental value than any financial inheritance.

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.

Encryption of digital assets
Encryption scrambles data, protecting it so a person can't make any sense of it without knowing the password. This security measure may complicate things for your heirs if they're unable to locate the password.

Digital assets are constantly changing
The possibility of personal changes and technology advancements are endless.

"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.

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.

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 and files from disclosure by certain providers of electronic communications services or remote computing services.

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.

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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