computers, dispruptive technology, law, wills & estates

Our Digital Afterlife

All she wanted to do was send a simple e-mail confirming a coffee date with the girls, but this particular morning Outlook had become uncoupled from Google, and it simply wasn’t going to happen.

A long two hours later, most of it spent on the steep and slippery slope of the learning curve, I had learned of two step verification, app passwords and such, and having burrowed more deeply into the innards of our  home computer that I had ever previously ventured, e-mail connectivity and domestic bliss had both been restored.

My grateful spouse commented “I swear if you ever slipped on a banana peel I’d be completely lost. I don’t have a clue about any of this technical stuff- I didn’t even know we had a Google account where email lived”

Well, notwithstanding that I am a Boomer, and accordingly, should be exempt from mortality, there is always a chance that banana peel will catch up with me one day, and my widow will be left to cope.

Will she know that I have not one, but four Google accounts, three WordPress blogs with associated Facebook pages, in addition to my own Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest accounts?  Does she know the name of the company that quietly performs a remote backup of the contents of our computer every couple of days, or that we have vacation photos archived in the cloud on One drive, Dropbox and Google Drive ?

As lawyers we are becoming increasingly aware of the digital footprint that we, and our clients, leave behind when we die, and of the need to make provision for the management or disposition of our digital assets. Indeed recently we have amended some of the broiler-plate language in our standard wills template to hopefully clothe an executor with the authority to gain access online accounts, but of course in order to do so the executor must know that those accounts exist.

As a first step towards ensuring that one’s digital legacy is handled properly, we are now recommending strongly to clients that they prepare, and keep updated, a memorandum of digital assets- a list of what online subscriptions they maintain, together with passwords and password hints, and perhaps even a description of their purpose.

While it might be merely untidy if my WordPress blogs were left to molder, I would hate to think that a hefty bitcoin Wallet, or Mogo or Tangerine online bank account stuffed with cash, or even my airline points, or digital Canadian Tire money, were lost to my estate.

We need to give more thought to the size of our digital footprint, and invest some time in documenting and safeguarding it- your executors will thank you for it.


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