Planning for Your Digital Estate – My New ABA Journal Tech Column

My August ABA Journal tech column is called “Of Sound Mind: Make Plans for Your Digital Estate.” The column provides a quick overview of and some practical pointers for the increasingly-complex issues and questions that arise in handling our digital assets after we can no longer manage them ourselves.

I’ve been fascinated by this issue for years and first wrote about it in 2010 when my friend Wendy Werner talked me into writing a primer on “digital estate planning” issues for the Law Practice Today webzine. That article was called “Estate Planning for your Digital Assets” and is one of my favorite articles that I’ve written in the last few years. I also got a very good response to the article.

As many readers know, I spent most of the first half of my legal career in the estate planning and tax field. It’s no wonder that the combination of estate planning and technology issues would interest me.

I’ve gotten the chance recently to talk a number of people who are also interested in this topic, most notably my friend Sharon Nelson and my personal estate planning lawyer and former law partner, Jackie Dimmitt.

Tom Mighell and I also did a podcast on this topic called “Planning for Your Digital Estate.”

The ABA Journal article is an attempt to distill a very complex topic into a 600 word format and offer a few practical pointers. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive treatise, but to start an important discussion. I like the way it turned out and invite you to read it.

As I ask in the article:

What happens to your online accounts, computer files and other “digital assets” when you die or become incapacitated? More importantly, what do you want to happen to them?

As usual, it comes down to people issues more so than technology issues. The best recommendation I have is point #5 – choose the right person. The traditional fiduciary choices probably are not the best choices for dealing with all of technology remains, especially all your Internet accounts. An estate planning lawyer is not reasonably knowledgeable of and comfortable with the issues of your digital estate and savvy about when and how to get help might cause your survivors undue stress and mishandle significant issues.

As I say in my conclusion: “The collision of the real world and the digital world always results in surprising consequences. Are you taking steps to ensure that the right things happen?”

Money quote:

How will your Internet friends get notice of your death, and can key accounts be accessed quickly and easily?

A very important topic that we all need to think about in more detail. Read the entire column at Of Sound Mind: Make Plans for Your Digital Estate.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

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The new book Allison Shields and I have written called “LinkedIn in One Hour for Lawyers” is now available and also as an iBook. Also still available, The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell.