Monday, September 17, 2018

Planning your Digital Legacy

Yesterday, I was telling my mom how I had donated VHS transfer services to my church's silent auction.  She responded by saying "Wow, I've been waiting YEARS to get our home movies from you."  I thought about this, knowing I had done the job of getting the 8mm reels transferred some years ago, and recalled that they had provided me a mini-DV master, from which I had given my family VHS copies...because that was what existed at the time for the home consumer.  Right, I hadn't  done anything (yet) with that mini-DV tape other than make the VHS copies. But I still have a mini-DV deck, so I've added that transfer to my ever-growing to-do list of free things that people want from me.  I found the mini-DV tape of my family's home movies.  I also found the mini-DV tapes I had made of my grandmother's home movies.  I decided to wait on doing anything with Grandma's tapes, because, well, the squeaky know the rest.

BUT.  What about Grandma's home movies tapes, which are now relegated to these mini-DV tapes in her granddaughter's house? And what about all of the photos and videos I've shot on my phone in casual settings or on vacation, and not done anything with?

This year my husband and I created a will and living trust.  In this VERY comprehensive document (which is actually a 3" binder), there's a section about digital legacy.  I'm pretty sure a lot of people haven't given this any, or enough, thought.  Having blank pages in this binder, I've been forced to think about it.

So in planning for the future without you in it, not only do you need to make plans for your tangible assets, but you also need to make plans for your email, social media, banking and financial accounts (investments, of course, but also things like bitcoin and PayPal), and your online memorabilia and documents---that includes all those pictures, which at the time seemed artistic, but now just make up an ever-lengthening feed of status updates.  These are called your "digital assets".  The reason this matters is that digital assets typically fall under the rules of service agreements (you know, those terms of service you agree to, but never read?), rather than by property laws.  In many cases, the service agreements don't have any rules after a user dies or becomes incapacitated.

So what should you be doing now?  Keep backups of your assets- photos, videos, etc... in an online storage option like Dropbox, etc.  And then manage your passwords to all your sites using a service like LastPass.  Put the Lastpass password on a flash memory drive that is kept with your will/trust documents.

The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act allows a fiduciary the legal authority to manage another's property and specifically allows internet users the power to plan for the management and disposition of their digital assets.  There's a very detailed publication that provides more details if you are the person stuck with figuring out what to do with someone's digital assets, and how to prepare your own here.

So in order for all of this to work as you intend, you need to include an amendment to your existing will, trust or power of attorney that talks about how you want your digital assets handled.  This amendment will give the designated agent the authority to direct or dispose of these assets.  To do this, you can create a VAIL (Virtual Asset Instruction Letter) that divides the assets into five categories (of your choosing) which allows for each to be handled separately, with the option of different instructions (for example, delete, share or archive) and assign different personal digital representatives.  Save the VAIL to the flash memory drive, (preferably that same one that has your Lastpass password on it) that is kept with the will/trust--not to a computer hard drive or external hard drive, which will deteriorate over time.