(This is part 2 of 2 posts talking about digital assets. This post discusses what inheritors can do with assets they receive from parents, grandparents, or other family members, while part 1 covers what you can do with your own assets.)
What do you do with the photos and videos of a loved one after their passing?
Maybe your aunt or father was the shutterbug of the family and they have an archive with thousands of images. Or your grandparent left boxes of physical photos, slides, or negatives that need to be digitized and organized. How do you manage these digital (or soon-to-be digital) assets?
For the physical items, your first priority might be to create digital backups, especially for photos or documents that may have been damaged by being kept in damp storage areas or exposed to the elements. You may want to consult with a family historian or other photo professional on the best way to handle these precious items, and how to store physical items correctly that you want to keep.
Your siblings or cousins might be interested in sharing items from the collection, or in having photos or videos that have significance to them.
If no specific provisions have been made in the estate documents, then it is generally up to the personal representative what happens to physical and digital assets like these. Some items might be distributed to the most appropriate person, like collections of photos of your sibling’s childhood might be given to them, while you keep your own. Or the most appropriate person might be that relative who acts as the family historian and is willing and able to take the collection and distribute as appropriate. It’s not uncommon for one person to be the recipient of a relative’s entire collection because it’s disorganized or no one knows what is in it, and so it has to be sorted with more care and time than is possible right away.
You could also create a virtual distribution system, such as a private Dropbox folder that is then shared with all of the family members who want to be able to see and download family photos. This is easier and quicker than creating multiple copies of photo prints and mailing them, and has the benefit of being cloud storage as well (see the Storage section from the Part 1 of this series).
However you decide to handle your family’s digital assets, remember that it’s always wise to create backups in case of natural disaster or accidental loss. Once a physical photo is destroyed, it’s often gone for good unless a digital copy has been created and saved.