We all have digital data that’s important to us now, but a lot of it could also be important to our children, friends, and relatives long after we’re gone. But you have to take concrete steps now to make sure that data is preserved in the right way and handled according to your wishes. It’s not all about posterity either, since following Joe’s advice will also help loved ones access your key accounts and important info if you’re temporarily incapacitated, which can happen at any time.
The book will help you with these essential tasks:
- Identify your key digital assets: online accounts, photos, audio files, videos, passwords, documents, email, and more.
- Plan for each type of digital asset based on your priorities for today, for shortly after you are no longer around, and for posterity. Joe explains the ideal file formats to use, how to deal with social media sites, the best ways to digitize paper documents and photos, and strategies for sharing passwords with family members, among much else.
- Communicate your wishes in a “digital will” and designate someone to be its “digital executor.” The book includes a template document that you can develop into a personalized digital will.
- Preserve your data for the future. You’ll consider types of archival storage media, cloud-based storage services, backups, and what instructions to provide about maintaining your data as file formats and storage media types evolve.
Whether you just want to ensure that your heirs get copies of your favorite family photos and a few key documents or you want to catalog and preserve tens of thousands of digital items, this book helps you make smart decisions about your digital legacy.
Questions answered include:
- What strategies can I use for sorting and preserving email and instant messages?
- How can I ensure that my email account(s) will be available to those wrapping up my estate?
- What if I have digital data that should be destroyed when I die?
- What should I do with my huge photo collection (both digital and paper)?
- How should I pass on control of my Apple, Google, and Microsoft accounts?
- How can I make my passwords and passkeys available to those who will need them—but keep them private for now?
- What should I think about when handing down purchased audio and video files?
- What should happen to my Facebook account when I’m no longer around?
- What choices are available for keeping my digital archive available and backed up?
- How long should I expect archival media to last?
- Should I write an autobituary?
- Are online digital legacy services any good?
- How will organizing all this stuff benefit me while I’m alive?
What's New in the Second Edition
Death may be forever, but technology marches on. Although the broad strokes of what I recommended in the first edition of this book back in 2017 remain accurate, changes to operating systems, apps, hardware, websites, and businesses have meant there are lots of new things to talk about. In addition, after giving dozens of presentations on the contents of this book, I’ve realized that I left some questions unanswered and omitted some essential details.
As a result, I’ve thoroughly revamped this book. The most significant changes in the second edition are:
- Revised the text as necessary to reflect the increasing likelihood that your crucial data is stored on mobile devices (see, in particular, the sidebar “Computers vs. Mobile Devices”)
- Added “Instant Messaging and Chat”, and updated “Social Media and Other Accounts,” to reflect the types of accounts people are most likely to use these days
- Added information about passive income sources to “Digital Business Assets”
- Added a sidebar called “What Is Media, Anyway?” to help clarify this ambiguous term
- Expanded my guidance for what to do with your digital photos; see “Inventory Other Personal Data”
- Updated “Inventory Digital Currency” to better reflect current reality and to mention NFTs
- In “Decide on File Formats,” made some clarifications and attempted to make the advice a bit easier to follow
- Added a lengthy new chapter, “Handle “Big Tech” Accounts,” covering the special steps you should take with an Apple, Google, or Microsoft account
- Included a discussion of book scanners in “Obtain a Scanner”
- Revised “Outsource Scanning” with additional options you can consider
- Added a sidebar, “What About Passkeys?,” that discusses the benefits and additional challenges of password-free logins
- In the chapter now called “Deal with Email and Messages,” added a section (“Handle Instant Messages and Chats”) on dealing with instant messaging, chat, and SMS data
- Reworked “Handle Your Media,” especially the topic “Digital Media Complications,” to offer better advice in dealing with purchased media
- Added more detail about handling cryptocurrency in “Handle Digital Currency”
- Added calendars and contacts to the list of information you should consider in “Handle Other Cloud Data”
- Included two new sidebars, “Does Disk Format Matter?” and “Including One Person’s Digital Legacy in Another’s,” in the “Preserve Your Data for Posterity” chapter
- Noted how important it is to exercise hard drives and SSDs used for archival storage in “Store Media Safely (and Redundantly)”
- Added hardware security keys to the items you should include when you Create a Legacy Dossier
- Thoroughly overhauled the lists of services in the sidebar “Online Digital Legacy Services”
- Updated the downloadable Digital Will Template to reflect the many additions and changes in this edition
Posted by Joe Kissell on July 17, 2023
Joe Kissell joined host Chuck Joiner on MacVoices to talk about Take Control of Your Digital Legacy, Second Edition.
In part one, Joe discusses what has changed in the world of digital estate planning in recent years, especially with big tech companies, and talks about the role of a digital executor.
In part two, Joe talks more about your digital executor and other professionals, as well as the risks of using third-party digital legacy services, the benefits of an autobituary, and what you should do about your passwords.
Posted by Michael E. Cohen on February 3, 2017
Ignore the purple hair (or, like us, revel in its sublime beauty) as you listen to Joe explain to Chuck Joiner of MacVoices how he came to write this book. Though you won’t hear Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” playing in the background, the tips and tactics Joe offers for controlling your digital legacy may leave you humming it.