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Your digital legacy and before Google

Tech Talk

 

Part of being a grown-up is facing the fact we won't be here forever. Most people are familiar with wills and family trusts as instruments of helping your loved ones know what to do when you die. Wills and family trusts make it clear what your wishes are.

You do have a will, right? If not, get one. While you're at it, set up an advanced healthcare power of attorney.

OK, now when you're gone your will or family trust makes it clear to whoever you appointed as your fiduciary (the executor of your will or trust, or the person named in your power of attorney) what your wishes are. Who gets the rusty 1963 Corvette, the beach house in Maui, the stocks and bonds, and the antique mantel clock that Antiques Roadshow turned down.

But what about your long-forgotten MySpace account? The password to your Facebook account? Or your email accounts? Online banking and shopping passwords? These things are part of your digital legacy.

There are four major components to your digital legacy:

• Passwords, especially to your phone and computer(s)

• Online bank accounts and financial life

• Email addresses and social media

• Digital assets, like photos or music

Each component needs to be addressed to make sure that nothing gets lost or forgotten.

Of the four, passwords are the probably the most critical. A comprehensive list of financial accounts and email addresses is useless without a list of passwords as well. The easiest way to do this is to start using a password manager. Your password manager keeps a complete list of email accounts and any other sites where you need to enter a password, as well as the password for those sites. Keep the master password for your password manager on a sheet of paper and keep that paper with your will.

If you can't or won't use a password manager, then make sure to keep an accurate list of all your email accounts, bank and financial sites, and the password to each one. Keep this list with your will, and keep this list updated. People are going to need it when you're gone.

Write down (or make a spreadsheet) of where you bank and the account numbers. Also do this for life insurance policies, stocks, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, and credit cards, even though these will probably be in your will paperwork. Keep this list up to date. Make another list of your recurring payments, like utilities, tuition, loans, even your Netflix account and newspaper subscriptions. All of this will make things easier for your fiduciary.

For social media accounts, Facebook and Instagram both allow accounts to be turned into memorials; Facebook also allows you to designate a legacy contact to manage memorialized pages. Twitter will let your executor or family member deactivate your account. Check out the terms of service for each provider you have an account with.

Digital assets like your music, photos, and documents can be tricky. Your documents and photos are yours. Music you've created, or novels, plays, and screenplays you've written should specifically be mentioned in your will.

Music you've purchased online through iTunes or Amazon or somewhere else is tricky. In most cases, you've only bought a license to listen to the music and don't own it. iTunes is especially terrible about letting people pass a music collection to their heirs. If you have a lot of music, there are ways to convert the files and store them offline so you won't need to access them through an online store.

Some trust and estate attorneys can help you sort all this out, but mostly it's up to you to make sure this gets done to make it easier, or even possible, for your executor to carry out your wishes.

Before Google, there were librarians

Here are some queries posed to the patient staff of public libraries:

• A woman wanted "inspirational material on grass and lawns."

• "Who built the English Channel?"

• "Is there a full moon every night in Acapulco?"

• "Music suitable for a doll wedding to take place between a Shirley Temple doll and a teddy bear."

• "Can the New York Public Library recommend a good forger?"

-From Reader's Digest

Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at greg@tech-hachapi.com.

 
 

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