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Life (and death) Online

What happens to your email account after you die or become incapacitated by illness? Your Facebook? The photos you’ve uploaded to Flickr or a private Instagram account? Your online banking? We used to keep our valuables and items of personal significance in safe deposit boxes, photo albums and perhaps a cedar chest that had been passed down for generations. Today, with so much of our lives intertwined with the internet it can be a legal quagmire for your family when trying to access your password-protected “digital assets.” It can even be illegal for another to use your password and user id to access your accounts.

A new law that is being introduced in states across the nation aims to fix that. The Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act is a mouthful of a name that means there will be a way to designate someone to manage your digital assets with full legal authorization. The fiduciary would be able to access your content – but not to own it.

This law is not without its detractors. If you fail to designate someone, the law has provisions that would govern the distribution of your digital assets. That means that someone not of your choice will have legal access to your private accounts. This “default” setting in the law has raised privacy concerns.

For now, you need to communicate clearly with your family and friends about your digital assets. A fairly comprehensive list of currently available online services can be found at http://www.thedigitalbeyond.com/online-services-list/.

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