DIG­I­TAL DEATH

Safe­guard your on­line ac­counts and as­sets in case some­thing un­for­tu­nate hap­pens to you. It sounds mor­bid, but it’s the new fi­nan­cial task we all need to tackle ASAP.

Simply Her (Singapore) - - SimplyHer -

What you must do now to safe­guard your e-mail, pho­tos and on­line ac­counts in case some­thing un­for­tu­nate hap­pens to you.

When Chanel Reynolds was 39 and her hus­band, Jose Her­nando, was 43, he was hit by a van while rid­ing his bike.

It smashed his up­per spine and caused an im­me­di­ate heart at­tack, but he made it to the hos­pi­tal with a trace of a pulse. For a week, un­til doc­tors de­ter­mined he would never re­gain con­scious­ness, Chanel, who most wanted to be with her hus­band, had to spend pre­cious hours deal­ing with a host of prob­lems start­ing with the fact that she didn’t know the four-digit pass­code to his phone.

“That meant I couldn’t get hold of his dad,” says Chanel. (She only had some fam­ily mem­bers’ num­bers; his par­ents had sep­a­rated when he was young and were not in con­tact.) For hours, she tried var­i­ous pass­codes, but the phone would lock her out for longer pe­ri­ods of time the more failed at­tempts she made.

“Even­tu­ally, the doc­tors told me he could die any minute and they hoped he would be sta­ble enough to go into surgery. They also said there was a fifty-fifty chance he wouldn’t make it through surgery, so I had to do a Face­book up­date say­ing, ‘Hey, ev­ery­one in the Her­nando fam­ily – some­one give me a call’. That is ab­so­lutely not the way you want to let somebody know that some­thing has hap­pened,” re­calls Chanel.

Im­pli­ca­tions of Go­ing Pa­per­less

Chanel was en­coun­ter­ing some­thing rel­a­tively new in this dig­i­tal age: when we pass on, we take a lot of im­por­tant pos­ses­sions with us. In the past, when in­for­ma­tion was on hard copy, our loved ones could more eas­ily gain ac­cess to our bank ac­counts, in­surance poli­cies, business as­sets and pho­tos.

Jamie Hop­kins, a pro­fes­sor from The Amer­i­can Col­lege of Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices, ex­plains: “If, say, some­thing un­to­ward hap­pens to your dad and he has gone pa­per­less with his bank ac­counts, you won’t be able to take care of his fi­nances if you don’t have ac­cess to his e-mail.” (In Sin­ga­pore, banks will only recog­nise the cus­tomer’s ex­ecu­tor or ad­min­is­tra­tor as the cus­tomer’s suc­ces­sor in the event of the cus­tomer’s death. The bank is en­ti­tled to freeze the bank ac­count upon no­tice of the cus­tomer’s death un­til the suc­ces­sor pro­duces a grant of pro­bate or let­ters of ad­min­is­tra­tion.)

This phe­nom­e­non, “dig­i­tal death”,

means we leave be­hind a “dig­i­tal after­life” or “dig­i­tal legacy” in the form of our on­line iden­ti­ties and pos­ses­sions, which out­live us in the cloud – through our e-mail ac­counts, Face­book and Twit­ter pro­files, on­line pho­tos and videos, blogs, eBay and Etsy store­fronts and more. If we don’t take pre­cau­tions, our loved ones could lose th­ese parts of us too.

Chanel says: “Be­cause I didn’t have Jose’s pass­words, I had to make dozens of phone calls over and over again to try to ac­cess on­line ac­counts that were in his name only.” She didn’t even know if their wills were up­dated or if they had life in­surance. The har­row­ing ex­pe­ri­ence prompted her to start a web­site called Get Your Sh*t To­gether!, which out­lines all the doc­u­ments one should have in place in case of an emer­gency.

The Value of Your On­line As­sets

A global dig­i­tal as­sets survey done in 2013 by se­cu­rity soft­ware firm McAfee found that the av­er­age Sin­ga­porean owns an es­ti­mated $57,500 in dig­i­tal as­sets. This value is de­rived from tan­gi­ble as­sets such as your dig­i­tal de­vices, and in­tan­gi­ble ones like your per­sonal mem­o­ries and ca­reer in­for­ma­tion, says Chai Chin Loon, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of As­surity Trusted So­lu­tions.

Although over 95 per cent of Sin­ga­pore­ans own mul­ti­ple de­vices, most of us don’t keep an ac­tive inventory of our dig­i­tal as­sets. “Leav­ing a copy of our wills or our pass­words to im­por­tant ac­counts to the peo­ple we trust is not only nec­es­sary to help them set­tle our af­fairs if some­thing un­to­ward hap­pens to us, it is also cru­cial in pre­vent­ing iden­tity theft or on­line fraud,” elab­o­rates Chin Loon. Evan Car­roll, co-au­thor of Your

Dig­i­tal After­life and au­thor at www.thedig­i­tal­be­yond.com, a web­site that mon­i­tors re­lated is­sues, says: “Ide­ally, we’d have sys­tems and laws and pro­to­cols in place for our loved ones to gain ac­cess to our dig­i­tal ma­te­ri­als. Un­for­tu­nately, the laws are lag­ging be­hind the dig­i­tal lives that we are lead­ing to­day.”

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