I just finished reading an interesting article by an attorney named Scott Zucker on “Digital Estate Planning” for clients. Coincidentally, I had been thinking about similar issues lately as I considered the implications of some of my deceased friends’ Facebook pages. I know this sounds either morbid or just plain strange but think about it for a minute. Do you want to have some control over what happens to your online presence after you pass away?
I am going to resist the urge to start discussing William Gibson novels and just point out that Mr. Zucker expands the discussion to an examination of what he terms “digital assets” which he defines as “any online account that requires a user name or password” or “any files stored in places including an individual’s computer, mobile phone, server…” or, I imagine the all-pervasive “cloud”.
We all probably have a larger online presence than we actually think we have; from websites to social media, iTunes accounts, bank accounts and bill paying. Zucker suggests that the individual who is thinking about estate planning should prepare a list of each of these accounts with the password and his or her intentions regarding the account for his executor or estate administrator.
Obviously this is going to involve gaining an understanding of each of the major sites’ terms of service and ultimately involving a lot of work and a lot of hassle, but I can understand the benefits. For example, I am aware of a family who is not happy with the way people are conducting themselves on their deceased relative orelative’s Facebook page. They should have the right to handle this account as they see fit and with as little angst as possible. Really, there are a lot of issues to consider once you start thinking about this.
All of these are issues that only a science fiction writer could have imagined ten years ago but I see the need to examine them as we go forward.