27 August 2011

Planning for Your "Digital Afterlife"

If getting your final affairs wasn't already time consuming enough with wills, living estates, health care directives, "do not resuscitate" directives (the traditional written documents relating to one's inerrant demise from this world), now one has to decide what to do with one's personal digital affairs - e-mails, tweets, blog entries, images, etc. after one's death, too.

Digital assets exist in cyberspace which has created a unique new situation in the eons long record of civilization. (Fretting about cyberspace certainly wasn't a problem for the ancient Egyptians!) We must deal with the material assets of life as well as the born digital or duplicated in digital assets of our life also. Some of our digital assets will continue to reside in cyberspace long after we die while some of our digital assets will get deleted by their hosting agencies after a period of time.

Bottom line: Much of our digital assets are held by third parties in cyberspace and are beyond our immediate control. But there are actions one can take in advance to bring some control over the ultimate resolution of our digital assets.

Q: What are those steps?

Luckily for us, the Signal, a recently launched blog about Digital Preservation from the Library of Congress, is online to help! The entry for July 1st offers advice on "How to get your digital affairs in order." The article suggests 4 actions to perform in order to preserve your digital assets in the manner in which you wish them to be handled upon your death.

As with most any project, one has to start with a plan appropriate for the situation and personalities involved. You are the person best able to evaluate what you and your heirs will find most appropriate. It probably wouldn't hurt to discuss these matters with an attorney who has experience with estates. The South Carolina Bar Association offers a Lawyer Referral Service which can direct you to a qualified, prescreened attorney in one of more than 100 areas of law, including complex estates and trusts. You can access the service online by clicking here or by telephone at 1-800-868-2284.

I trust that you'll find the entry as thought-provoking as you draft or revise your final instruction documents as I did.

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