• Manage Your Digital Assets

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    Mellody Hobson talks about wills during today’s “Money Mondays” segment.

    I’ve talked about the importance of getting your affairs in order to assure your wishes are carried out accordingly, but I don’t want to talk about life insurance or bequeathing your stock portfolio to your favorite nephew today. Today, I want to talk about your digital assets—and the technological fingerprint you’ve left which will endure after your death.

    Not exactly a picnic, but an interesting topic.

    It’s SO interesting. Just recently, Google announced a new tool for managing what they are calling your “digital afterlife.” Google users can choose to delete their content or name beneficiaries, like in a will. And different products can have different directives. For instance, you can choose to have your email account deleted but to share photos on Picassa or YouTube content with certain people you designate.

    How does Google know when you’ve died?

    They don’t exactly. Google isn’t going to send flowers to your grave, but they’ll know when you’ve gone radio silent for an extended period. In Account Settings, Google users can choose whether to activate the ”Inactive Account Manager” feature after their accounts are inactive for three, six, nine or 12 months. And Google will send a text message and e-mail confirmation before taking any action.

    Before, survivors could only gain access to data stored with Google with a court order, and that was rare. Now, users can grant access to up to ten people.

    Google introduced the feature just as states have begun to pass laws about what happens to digital remains. Federal privacy laws do not generally address the issue, but Congress is considering it.

    Other companies are also thinking about the issue. Facebook has long struggled with how to confirm that users have died. It’s fairly jarring when the site offers up a deceased friend among “People You May Know” or suggests “Reconnect With…That Former Coworker Who Died!” With retirees age 65 and over, the fastest-growing group of new users on Facebook, it’s a problem that isn’t going to die, if you’ll pardon the pun.

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