It’s a good question to ponder, particularly during these last two weeks of December as we sort through our 2011 files and look ahead to 2012. John Romano and Evan Carroll, who wrote the book “Your Digital Afterlife,” note that all of us will have some sort of “digital afterlife” whether we are prepared or not. Ensuring that others can continue view our digital files after we die should matter to everyone. But it should be a particular concern for photographers, artists, writers, and other creative pros whose work might have more than sentimental value.
“The things we produce help us pay the bills, exercise our creativity, and leave an impact on our professions,” notes Carroll in an article on The Peachpit Press website entitled “Digital Estate Planning for Designers, Photographers, and Developers.” He says creative professionals have immense digital footprints because we tend to create, share, and collect far more data than the average person.
Yet a lot of the digital content we have created has been scattered over multiple digital devices, including work and personal computers, smartphones, backup drives, and online accounts such as Flickr. In some cases, our digital creations may reside on computers over which we don’t have direct control.
To save your heirs an immense amount of frustration, Carroll and Romano advise creating a digital estate plan. In addition to giving your family access to works that might be regarded as heirlooms, a digital estate plan can help ensure that the photographs, manuscripts, designs, and sketches you’ve created remain readable and available to those who want to view your work. You can get started by taking an inventory of your digital assets, recording the appropriate access credentials, and documenting your wishes.
In an interview on the PeachPit Press website, Carroll and Romano said they wrote the book to help people understand the new digital lifestyle and how it affects their legacy: “We’ve heard countless stories where grieving families have lost access to precious content or they’ve found content that revealed embarrassing content that belonged to the deceased. Our book will help you avoid both of these scenarios.”
The first section of the book talks about the risks that digital legacies face and current advances to help avoid those risks. The second section walks you through a step-by-step process to help secure different types of digital assets.
“The biggest mistake you can make is to not take any action at all,” said Carroll and Romano. “You will have some form of digital afterlife whether you take action or not. By not taking action, you leave everything to chance.”