I was pointed this morning by HBR to an interesting article about inheritance and iTunes. The basic story is that, since you only purchase licenses to use content from Apple or Amazon, and since these licenses are not transferable, things don’t look very good. However, apparently, there may be some kind of a void in the law, so this s a good area for lawyers, and we will see what happens in the future.
This article led me to make the link with the hack that was recently publicized. Beyond hacking, dying is definitely a good way to lose your digital assets. In my personal case, my wife and kids don’t know my passwords, and they are even aware of all the accounts that I have in many places (actually, I am not fully aware of that). This means that, most likely, nobody will inherit my data, unless I do a digital will.
Of course, there are a few startups in the area. I like the deathswitch idea: they will regularly send you e-mails; if you don’t answer them for 30 days, they will send an e-mail to other people, including personalized messages that you have provided, to let them know what to do after your death. This is a service you better not forget, but it gives you an opportunity to tell them that all your passwords are stored in file “passwords.txt”, with password “1234”.
The legacylocker offer is much more complete, as it allows you to store all kinds of important information, who will then be disclosed to your legal heirs after your death. And in that case, they will need to provide a certified death certificate to access the information. This one looks good, but I am not sure that they provide a worldwide guarantee. Anyway, they would be nicely complemented by a death switch reminding your heirs of the existence of this digital locker.
Not sure that I will move ahead with such services. I have a personal preference for a NFC-enabled smart card stored in a safe, just because physical objects are a good bootstrap to digital objects (and maybe a little bit because I like smart cards).