(This is part 1 of 2 posts talking about digital assets. This post covers what you can do with your own assets, while part 2 discusses what inheritors can do with assets they receive.)
In this digital age, we accumulate a lot of digital assets now. Photos, documents, videos, graphics and art, archive backups of accounts and social media, email – the list could go for quite a while.
These assets are valuable as an archive of your life and that of your family, and your children, grandchildren, or personal representative will need to know what to do with them after you’re gone. So what can you do with these items?
First, how are you storing your files? Hard drives can fail, files can be accidentally deleted, and subscriptions can end without a backup being made.
A good rule of thumb for storing your digital files is the 3-2-1 rule: Three versions of backup, with two different methods, one of which is a cloud storage or off-site storage option.
Here’s how that breaks down:
- Three: Create three copies of your data. One version is your primary copy and the one that you change and update most frequently. Then you have two additional copies as backups. Set a schedule to update your data so that you never lose more than a week or two of data if something were to fail.
- Two: Of your local copies, keep them on two different versions of media. For most people, this usually means two copies on two separate external hard drives.
- One: One of those copies needs to be kept off-site. This could be a physical off-site backup, like storing a hard drive in a family member’s home or in a deposit box at a bank, or it could be cloud storage. The cloud storage option is great if you can choose a service with auto-backup, like Dropbox or Drive. This way you can be assured that your data is being automatically uploaded to your secure service, you can access it from anywhere, and you can download your archive at need.
Family historians and genealogists can help you create wonderful archives and records of your family’s stories while you’re alive. They can also advise you on the best way to store, display, and digitize any of your physical photos and documents that need to be addressed.
Some historians will work with individuals and families to tell the narrative of their stories and incorporate photos into a coffee-table book that can be shared with loved ones. Others focus more on the genealogy side of family history and advise you on how to research and share that information.
If you have a lot of family photos in your physical or digital assets, a family historian can be a great way to create a lasting, shareable legacy for your children or other relatives.
One helpful thing you can do is to decide how you want your digital accounts to be managed after your death, particularly your social media. Do you want your Facebook account to be removed or memorialized, for instance?
Some of these services have an option you can select that will mark what you’d like done with your account as well as who will have access and rights to delete or memorialize an account. Take a look at the settings or FAQs section of the website you want to know more about.