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Who takes care of your Estate's Digital Assets?

The following is an excerpt from an article by Dennis Kennedy, an information technology lawyer who authors a monthly column in the American Bar Association Journal.

Andy Olmsted was a rare individual, in no small part because he is one of the few who thought carefully about what would happen to his online presence if he were to die. A popular blogger, Olmsted wrote a post before he left for service in Iraq, along with instructions for his survivors to post it to his blog in the event he was killed in action. Unfortunately, it had to be posted. I read the post on the day it appeared in 2008, and I re-read it when I prepared to write this article. It remains for me one of the most moving posts in the history of blogginghttp://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2008/01/andy-olmsted.html.

Tips for Providing Digital Assistance After the Death of Another

It's also possible that either as a survivor, you might find yourself in a position where you need to handle someone's digital affairs. I have a few tips.

  • Find knowledgeable technical and legal help.
  • In the case of a death, try to get to contact lists, e-mail accounts and social media accounts to notify friends who the deceased would want to be notified.
  • Change all passwords as soon as possible.
  • Try to understand the totality of the person's online presence and identify some of the people he or she has interacted with most for assistance, especially in the social media platforms.
  • Do not start closing accounts, shutting down hosting and e-mail, or taking other drastic steps until you have a good sense of the individual's presence and what you are ultimately going to do with it. Keeping a Web site up for a year or more will not be expensive. Shutting it down too early and losing valuable data could be quite expensive.
  • Be slow to delete, but when you delete or dispose of computers and drives, delete in accordance with forensic standards so data cannot be retrieved by others.
  • Spend $100 on an external USB hard drive and make a copy of all hard drives, flash drives and other data and keep them in one safe place. Once you start to go through the data, you can keep another drive with the "good stuff."
  • Make copies of Web sites and other online accounts.
  • Locate all the financial information and client records as soon as possible and aggregate and isolate them.
  • Remove credit card information from shopping accounts.
  • Err on the side of keeping e-mail, documents and photographs for family members.

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