Death and Digital Assets

digital-after-life-googleIt is inevitable, one day you will die. Modern science may someday cure this flaw in the human body, but for now we know that at some point, we will cease to be alive. This brings about a flurry of various costs and fees (dying can be expensive) and your possessions will be given to your next of kin. But what happens to your digital possessions?  Remember, anything that goes on the Internet, stays on the Internet. It is a vast digital elephant that never forgets. But you can limit this once you die.

Odds are your loved ones will have little or no use for your email and other digital information (social network, Youtube videos, Blogger account, etc.), so Google has introduced their Inactive Account Manager (IAM). IAM is a horrible acronym for this, but its theory is simple: after you set this feature up, if you do not login to the system after a particular amount of time, or a trusted person instructs them to, Google will systematically delete your account and all the data with it.

Google will first send you an alert, usually to your cell phone via text, before your account is deemed “inactive”, which you can set to be anywhere from 3-12 months. If you don’t answer this text, Google will notify up to 10 people that your account is account to be deleted, and ask them what they want to have happen. They can either save your data, or delete it. Alternatively, you can tell Google not to share anything, and just delete the account without anyone being aware.

Inter-State Investigative Services also recommends that you keep a printed copy of your usernames and passwords for Google, FaceBook and other social media, and store it with your will along with instructions as to what you want to have happen with your data.

Sample verbiage that you may want to use to model a Powers of Attorney to leave behind so someone can handle your digital assets.

POWERS OF ATTORNEY

To give the Agent power over your digital assets:

Digital Assets. My Agent shall have (i) the power to access, use, and control my digital devices, including but not limited to, desktops, laptops, tablets, peripherals, storage devices, mobile telephones, smartphones, and any similar digital device which currently exists or may exist as technology develops for the purpose of accessing, modifying, deleting, controlling, or transferring my digital assets, and (ii) the power to access, modify, delete, control, and transfer my digital assets, including but not limited to, my emails received, email accounts, digital music, digital photographs, digital videos, software licenses, social network accounts, file sharing accounts, financial accounts, banking accounts, domain registrations, DNS service accounts, web hosting accounts, tax preparation service accounts, online stores, affiliate programs, other online accounts, and similar digital items which currently exist or may exist as technology develops, and (iii) the power to obtain, access, modify, delete, and control my passwords and other electronic credentials associated with my digital devices and digital assets described above.

For greater emphasis to banks, include in the provision giving the Agent powers regarding financial accounts:  
“….and to access, modify, delete, control, and transfer my digital financial accounts.”

Sample verbiage that you may want to use to model a portion of your Will to leave behind so someone can handle your digital assets.
WILLS
To give the Executor power to access/manage digital assets (or when using the alternate clause, to engage another named person to do so):

“My Executor shall have the power to access, handle, distribute, and dispose of my digital assets, and the power to obtain, access, modify, delete, and control my passwords and other electronic credentials associated with my digital devices and digital assets. [ALTERNATIVE:  I authorize my Executor to engage and to assist in accessing, handling, distributing, and disposing of my digital assets.] If I have prepared a memorandum, which may be altered by me from time to time, with instructions concerning my digital assets and their access, handling, distribution, and disposition, I direct my Executor and beneficiaries to follow my instructions as outlined in that memorandum. “Digital assets” includes the following:

(1) Files stored on my digital devices, including but not limited to, desktops, laptops, tablets, peripherals, storage devices, mobile telephones, smartphones, and any similar digital device which currently exists or may exist as technology develops; and

(2) Emails received, email accounts, digital music, digital photographs, digital videos, software licenses, social network accounts, file sharing accounts, financial accounts, banking accounts, domain registrations, DNS service accounts, web hosting accounts, tax preparation service accounts, online stores, affiliate programs, other online accounts, and similar digital items which currently exist or may exist as technology develops, regardless of the ownership of the physical device upon which the digital item is stored.”

This blog article is offered only for general informational and educational purposes. It is not offered as and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinions. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. You should always consult an attorney before using and/or executing any legal document, as Inter-State Investigative Services, Inc. is not a law firm, and therefore not allowed to give legal advice.  Thank you to Evidence Solutions, Inc., for permission to re-post this article. www.evidencesolutions.com The Experts in Forensic Data Recovery.