How-to Manage Digital Assets

End of Life Management Toolkit #10 | by Team Passare and Evan Carroll

6. How-to Preserve Your Digital Afterlife

The technological process for how to preserve your digital afterlife continues to evolve. Here are some of the ways you can preserve your digital assets or the digital afterlife of a deceased loved one:

  • Check the laws in your state. Several states now have laws to manage digital assets if you or a deceased love one has no Will; many others have proposed legislation to protect a person’s digital identity if there is no Will.
  • Check the, “Terms of Service” for your online service providers to confirm access privileges to your executor or heir. Policies for managing digital assets after death vary according to provider(s) for email, multimedia and digital memento-sharing and social websites, and online business and financial platforms.
  • Incorporate your digital assets into your estate planning documents. You can use online digital estate planning services, or do it yourself in writing or by direct communication to your executor or heir.
  • Use online services to organize and pass on your digital accounts to your heirs.
  • Communicate and provide access to your executor or heirs about your digital assets, and provide them with the physical location, usernames, passwords, and usage rights to access your devices, data, and online accounts.

Important Note: Read the section, “Choosing a Digital Executor” in this eBook for more information on appointing a digital executor, and passing on your digital legacy to your heirs. For a template to help inventory your assets, including any backup drives or services, go to: www.yourdigitalafterlife.com/resources. For more information on current laws affecting digital assets, go to: www.thedigitalestateresource.com.

Limits to Preservation

Preserving digital content has limits. Maintaining it forever in its current state is impractical, given rapidly changing technology. For digital content to remain, you will need someone to act as caretaker or curator of your data to ensure that multiple copies are maintained in current formats that are accessible. The main challenge in curating digital content is not the technical ability, but the human or technological resources, to do so.

Digital files are only as reliable as the physical disks on which they reside. Redundancy and backups are essential to maintain file integrity. Storing multiple copies on separate devices helps keep digital content safe.

Convert older media to help manage changing file formats:

To ensure that your digital content is preserved, you will need someone to either convert it from older-to-newer formats, or to preserve the technology needed to read the older formats.

Suggestions for maintaining your digital content include:

  • Convert all data to a single format so your executor or heir can manage things more easily later.
  • Maintain regular backups, as described in the section, “How-to Create Your Digital Estate Plan” earlier in this eBook.
  • Transfer your most important digital assets onto a hard drive that your digital executor or heirs can access easily at a local location, like in your home or office.
  • Consider printing photos – hard copies can last more than 50 years or more
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