Written by: Estate Assist
The digital revolution is moving almost everyone in developed countries into a paperless society. For the majority of us, meaningful documents such as bank transactions and stock trades happen exclusively in the digital realm. In a similar way, memories captured through photography or videography are no longer subject to tangible media such as paper, scrapbooks, DVDs, VHS cassettes, and cumbersome film. Having a paperless life also means everything that has transactional meaning is often behind a password and, in some instances, fully secured within a two-factor authentication platform. After all, the corporations that are leading the way into the digitalization of information want your information to be both private and secure.
We know that your digital assets are important to you, and chances are you interact with many of them on a daily basis. Some have financial value; others are purely sentimental in nature but deeply important to you as well as your loved ones. Aside from making certain your digital assets are safely stored, it makes sense to put together a plan to transition your digital assets to an heir in the event of your death; or to make them available to your spouse or partner, should you become ill and unable to manage the day-to-day affairs for which your digital assets exist. Before we take a closer look at the best ways to organize, centralize, transfer, and share your digital assets, let’s take a moment to identify the types of digital assets that are likely to have value for you in your daily interactions, and to those you love, to help them transition when you are no longer around.
Photography is perhaps one of the most meaningful digital assets. In most instances, the value is purely sentimental, as it helps tell the stories that weave the fabric that makes families strong. In the past, family pictures were transferred from parents to children in boxes, albums, and frames, and it was not uncommon to witness family feuds over who was going to keep what. The rise in digital photography has radically changed the rules of the game, facilitating endless sharing among family members. Unfortunately, many beautiful digital memories are lost forever due to careless archiving or when someone passes away, and the original files are behind a password unknown to others.
Beyond the sentimental aspect, many photos have economic value due to their artistic qualities, or because they capture a moment in history. If you are a photographer who is capturing images as an art or as part of your profession as a photojournalist, then safekeeping of your images is a matter of stewardship and legacy.
Email and Instant-Messaging Communications
Don’t be too quick to dismiss the value of your email communications. Within your email archives, you are likely to have a beautiful narrative of your personal life, or in some instances priceless information and opinion related to your profession. Keeping your email archives is useful when someone needs to transition job responsibilities. Those left in charge will find valuable nuggets of information that will help them contextualize the current state of affairs, or find reference points when making fiscal decisions associated with the business organization they are tasked with leading. Think about the way emails become part of the archives stored by presidential libraries, or how universities are often the recipients of the rights to archive communications of well-known academics, celebrities, and scientists. In a similar way, instant messages may contain information that is key in understanding how to handle future business interactions, or as a way to remember someone we loved once they are no longer with us.
Illustration, Animations, Drawings, and Logos
Not every person has a penchant for art and graphic design, but those who do must be extra careful about storing and archiving the original digital files associated with their work. It is valuable in the here and now and has great potential moving forward. Many visual artists have fully abandoned traditional media and mainly work using digital tools. Having a good digital record of original works is useful when dealing with unauthorized use, and as a basis for secondary work. The quality of digital artists continues to rise more and more. Just a few minutes spent browsing at the work available at www.curioos.com are enough to fully understand how digital artistry is both meaningful and valuable.
Written Work, Presentations, Research, and Spreadsheets
Written media is relevant to all areas of life. Blogs, digital books sold through Amazon Kindle, digital files associated with professional presentations and complex spreadsheets capturing business-relevant data, and providing formulas that track behaviors are just a few examples of digital assets that have value for families, business partners, stockholders, and academic institutions. Having access to files of this nature can mean the difference between a chaotic situation and a seamless transition. In some instances, the rights to a digital asset or intellectual property such as a book may create a constant source of income for your heirs. Make double sure you are tracking intellectual property, and have processes in place to make it available to those that may need to use it when you are no longer around.
To store, organize, and archive your digital assets, you will need to have a consistent tagging and metadata method that others can use and understand, and a source of storage that is durable, secure, centralized, expandable, and transferable. A digital safe deposit box is only as good as the quality of information that you store within it. Make it a point to audit and track all your digital assets, and begin moving them to your digital safe. Decide who needs to access your data fully or partially in the present, and who is likely to need to access it when you are no longer alive. Storing and transferring digital assets is just one element of proper estate planning, but many experts agree that doing it right will likely have a positive emotional and financial impact on the lives of those that you love and are left behind to deal with the realities of life without you.
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