Category Archives: digital assets

Do you want to plan your own funeral?

EverestFuneralConciergeMeetWillIt used to be that if you wanted to plan your own funeral, you would sit down with pen and paper and write down your ideas.  The ideas might be very simple  or, conversely, completely elaborate.  However, they would only be documented on that paper you prepared.

Today there are alternatives.  Three of the latest apps that can help you are Everest, Cake and SafeBeyond.  These death apps promise to “help a person organize his or her entire online life into a bundle of digital living wills, funeral plans, multimedia memorial portfolios and digital estate arrangements.”  In addition, some death apps digitally transmit account passwords to your loved ones after you die.

Another service, Afternote, offers templates so you can create a multimedia tribute about yourself while you’re still alive.

The article I read on this subject had a headline “My name’s Will, and I’m dead.”  (See photo above.)  While he was still alive, Will left a detailed plan for the funeral he wanted and his family was able to use his plan to make arrangements.  He made a video explaining what he’d done and explaining why.  After his death, his loved ones watched the video and, although they were upset, the were not as stressed as they would have been if they had to plan the whole thing themselves and guess at what Will would have wanted.

Many people are beginning to incorporate their digital lives into their end of life plans and are recognizing how important a step it is.  According to a 2011 McAfee study, the average American valued their digital assets at around $55,000 and had at least 90 online accounts.    If the valued assets and access to the online accounts are not documented, they may all be lost after death.

It is important that you start making a plan today.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s on paper or developed thru an online software program like one of these.  Regardless, you should start planning today.

In addition to looking at software programs, you should read our book Access Denied to find out what you have to do to make sure that your loved ones will have access to everything once you’re gone and check out our website


What’s your most important password?

passwordsYou may guess it’s the password to your online bank account, to Facebook or to a shopping site.  Those are all important but there’s one that it’s critical you share with a loved one.  It’s the password to your email account.

Why is this so important?  When you die, your loved one or executor will try to access all of your online accounts so that they can close them down or, if necessary, continue their use.  For example, they may want to shut down your account on Amazon since you won’t be doing any more shopping.  Or, if you pay your utility bills online, they may want to continue to pay them until they sell your home.

You may use the same login information and password for all of your accounts but chances are that you have several different ones.  However, most of the accounts have a system that will enable a user to recover a forgotten login or password.  The user just needs to know how to access the email account linked to that other site so he or she can recover the information when it is sent out.

Although it is not strictly legal for you to share your password and login information, it is the easiest way to ensure that when you’re gone, your executor will be able to easily access your information and settle your estate.

For more information about digital estates and the steps you should take to be sure you have included them in your planning process, check out our book “Access Denied ” or go to our site

What’s UFADAA and why should you care?




We’ve talked several times about the importance of managing your digital assets and making sure your loved ones will be able to access them when you’re gone.

UFADAA stands for Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act.  It was developed by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and is a recommended act that all states are encouraged to enact.  The first approved version of the act did not meet the needs of the states and very few of them approved it.  However, in late 2015, a revised act was passed.  It has several important points:

  • It gives internet users control.  It allows users to specify whether their digital assets should be preserved, distributed to heirs or destroyed.
  • It provides efficient uniformity for all concerned.  Digital assets cross state lines.  A uniform law ensures that fiduciaries (the people who are appointed to manage our property when we die or are unable to manage it ourselves) in every state will have equal access to digital assets and custodians will have a single legal standard with which to comply.
  • It respects privacy interests.  It prevents the companies that store our communications from releasing them to fiduciaries unless the user consented to disclosure.
  • It works hand-in-hand with federal and state law.  Fiduciaries must provide proof of their authority in the form of a certified document.  Custodians of digital assets that comply with a fiduciary’s apparently authorized request for access are immune from any liability under statutes that prohibit unauthorized access.  A fiduciary’s authority over digital assets is limited by federal law, including the Copyright Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

19 states are considering passing a law that encompasses at least some of what was recommended in the revised UFADAA.  You should contact your representatives and urge them to enact this legislation.  It will make it much easier for you to manage the digital estate of a loved one after he or she has died.

For more information about UFADAA and other issues related to your digital estate, check out our book ACCESS DENIED: WHY YOUR PASSWORDS ARE AS IMPORTANT AS YOUR WILL.


Do you know what your digital assets are worth…and what happens to them when you die?


A 2013 estimate by McAfee found that the average person’s digital assets are worth $35,000.  That may be in things such as airline miles, purchased media, online bank accounts, Bitcoins, domain names.  Regardless of what they are in, their value can add up quickly.

As my attorney put it, “The digital world is today’s Wild West.  There are no sheriffs and no predictable law.”  Yet you have to find a way to protect these assets and to pass their worth on when you die.

A recent blog by Sharon Fisher gave some great examples of people who didn’t do anything and what happened when they were gone.

A son gave up about $2000 that resided in a PayPal account because his father hadn’t left a will granting him possession to those funds.

Michael Hamelin, a hacker who died in an accident had secured his family’s systems so well that even with the help of other hacker friends, his wife hasn’t be able to gain access to some of their files, including the only copies of digital photos they owned.

Peggy Bush, who we previously wrote about, was a Canadian widow who was told by Apple that she’d have to get a court order for the company to reveal the password to an iPad card game she and he husband linked to play.

In addition to policies of each company that has an online presence, laws vary by state.  It’s a very complex situation.

Be sure you have a plan for how to deal with your digital assets.  Check out our book, ACCESS DENIED: WHY PASSWORDS ARE AS IMPORTANT AS YOUR WILL, which will walk you thru the issues and help you to figure out what to do.

No power in the house – a digital death problem!

51j2ST20YwL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_A Sad but True Story from Access Denied illustrates a major problem that many survivors face when trying to deal with their loved one’s death.

“Marsha’s husband, Greg, went bike riding with some friends, something he did most Sunday mornings. A car careened down the street and hit him; he was killed instantly.

“Greg was the main breadwinner and his income paid for their living expenses. His salary checks were automatically deposited into his bank account. Their bills, including mortgage, utility bills and insurance premiums, were automatically paid from this account.

“When he was killed, Marsha was distraught. The death was totally unexpected. Greg was 46 and in great health. She spent the first few months after his death just grieving and wringing her hands. She could cope with very little and wasn’t thinking clearly. She never thought about the practicalities of how digital death were affecting her life.

“Because Greg was gone, paychecks were no longer being deposited into his bank account, so money to pay the bills quickly ran out. The checking account and the online utility accounts were set up with Greg’s name and email address. Past due notices and notices of returned checks were being sent to Greg’s email account, and Marsha knew nothing about them.

“Then, one day she came home to find she had no power. When she called the power company to find out what was wrong, they informed her that the bill for her address had not been paid. They had cut off the power and Marsha was in the dark with no heat and no electricity.

“Here’s how the call went:

PG&E answering machine: Hello, how can I help you? Press 3 if you are calling for help with billing.
Marsha: Pressed 3
PG&E answering machine: Please enter your account number so we can help you.
Marsha: Thinking to herself: I have no idea what the account number is. We haven’t received a paper bill in ages. Why don’t they ask me for Greg’s email? I know that.
PG&E answering machine: I’m sorry. Let’s try again. Please enter the account number. We’ll need that before we can help you.
Marsha: Clicking 0, 0, and 0 looking for a way to get connected to a real person.
PG&E (a real person): Hello, this is PG&E. How may we help you?
Marsha: The electricity at our house has been disconnected. I need to make a payment.
PG&E (a real person): Do you know the account number?
Marsha: No. My husband paid all of our bills.
PG&E (a real person): What is your husband’s name?
Marsha: Greg Thomas.
PG&E: What is your relationship with Greg?
Marsha: I’m his wife.
PG&E: Is Greg there? We can’t take a payment from anyone but Greg.
Marsha: No. Greg died several months ago.
PG&E: We are very sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, we can’t take a payment or transfer service to your name without you being here in person and providing proof of your relationship to Greg.
Marsha: You’re kidding right! It’s 20 degrees outside, and I don’t have any heat.
PG&E: I’m sorry. There is nothing we can do at this time. Please visit your PG&E office Monday morning with the right documentation, and they will be able to help you.
Marsha: (In one last effort for help) Can’t you just give me Greg’s password? I could log in and pay the bill electronically.
PG&E: Do you have documentation from Greg authorizing access to his account?
Marsha: No (thinking to herself: I have no idea what she is talking about).
PG&E: Sorry, there’s nothing else we can do.”

Don’t let this happen to you.  Makes plans for what will happen to your digital estate when you die and protect your family.  For more information and help on this critical topic, get a copy of Access Denied today.