As our world becomes increasingly digital, it is worth taking a fresh look at the possible consequences of the changes we are witnessing and participating in. As I grow older, I become more aware of the question, “What happens to all this when I die?”
Do you have a digital music collection? I do, and it comprises a few thousand tracks of music, some previously on CDs I purchased in various countries, others being tracks and albums I have bought online. I also have hundreds of ebooks I have purchased in recent years. I don’t have many videos, but I know people who do have significant collections. I have active accounts with about a half-dozen ebook vendors.
I have a wide and growing array of online accounts with services like iTunes. I have a subscription to a cloud storage service where I currently have about 35 GB of files, including pictures. My Apple devices all synchronize via an iCloud account. I know Windows users who have a great deal of their personal records stored in their Windows Live account. I do not have nearly as many accounts with social sites as some of my friends do, but I do have a large number of web accounts: about 400 at last count.
So what does happen to this when I die? After trawling through the painful End User License Agreements (EULAs) associated with many of the online sites and services I use, there seem to be two answers:
- some sites don’t address the issue at all
- other sites say the service is terminated with the death of the customer
The second answer worries me. I don’t much like the idea of all those things “evaporating” into the digital ether. So what I am doing is making sure when I die that my wife and kids will be able to access those accounts via the appropriate login credentials. That will give them the option of recovering much of the data, or at least, what they may want of it. This is quite separate from my will, as I don’t see accounts which the service provider will cancel as soon as they know of my death as being “assets.” Frankly, at that time they will be more like liabilities, generating monthly billings until the credit card is cut off.
Physical assets, such as my desktop and laptop computers, tablet and smartphone, are assets of my estate and are dealt with in my will.
Thinking about your digital assets and what you might want them treated after your death is a worthwhile investment, I think.