Did you know that the average person has more than 200 online accounts? Digital assets are more important to us than ever before and are quickly becoming a critical component of business operations, personal investing, and an individual legacy. But, do you know what will happen to those accounts when a person dies? It’s so important to create a succession plan (personal and business) that specifically addresses digital property and online accounts. Doing so will ensure that data, responsibilities, ongoing management, and account contents are seamlessly transferred, and account contents are seamlessly transferred to successors without any disruption or loss.
Managing a business, technology, and income can be difficult in today’s digital world. Business owners, IT managers, and influencers, especially, must be on the lookout for more than just pictures stored in the cloud or electronic financial statements. They have to consider potential and longer-lasting impacts on revenue, income, and even privacy. In this article, we’ll be reviewing some of the special requirements for building an effective succession plan, in the event of death, that can determine the fate of online businesses, domain names, social media, and support service providers, and all the ways you can begin to protect them. Then, we’re covering the top 6 issues that you may face while doing so.
When it comes to protecting and securing digital assets, simple errors can have unintended and disastrous consequences. Simply put, getting it wrong can be costly. Take the example of Toronto’s SickKids Hospital. They learned the firsthand effects of forgetting to renew their domain name’s subscription.1 When their URL expired in 2019, a cannabis company picked it up and began sharing information and discussing the use of marijuana. Because of this, parents, patients, and even SickKids employees were left confused and befuddled. But the problem only gets worse.
Terms of Service agreements, for example, are traditionally signed by just one individual. To content providers, that relationship is private and sacred, and they’re required, in many cases by law, to maintain that privacy. If breached, content providers can face severe penalties and fines. Imagine the chaos and confusion that occurs if the person managing the technology, business’s online ecosystem, social media management, and more dies. Accounts expire, systems collapse, data is locked away, or, worse, permanently lost.
Digital assets require vigilance, planning, and preparation to remain protected. Here are the top 6 issues that business owners, IT managers, and influencers can face if they don’t.
6 Factors to be Mindful of When Securing Digital Assets
1. The Terms of Service Agreements
Who is the owner of your digital assets? Is it you or your business? They need to be signed over to the business (or for an account holder’s estate plan to name a successor) for a transfer to occur. Remember, Terms and Services agreements are most often viewed as a private relationship and cannot be automatically turned over without written permission. Terms of Service agreements are legally binding contracts, even after death. This means that, even in the event of an account holder’s death, the agreement is still viewed as private, secure, and non-transferrable.
2. Lack of Industry Standards and Uniformity
The Terms of Service Agreements aren’t the only ones to keep in mind. Each service provider has their own set of protocols, policies, and way of handling an account holder’s death. For the business owner, IT manager, and influencer, the portfolio of service providers can be quite extensive, including:
● Domain issuers and managers
● Host providers and data management
● Security/privacy management
● Email management
● Social media management
If this is the case for your business, you must attend to all of them. To ensure a smooth operational transition, accounts must be prepared for and handled individually to comply with exact service provider policies.
3. Business Reputation and Revenue
For professionals who work online, a continuous presence is vital. Being offline for even a minute can be catastrophic to a website or app. If your online reputation is shaky, account holders, potential clients, employees, vendors, and even government officials might question your professionalism. The loss can be devastating. Just think about when Facebook and Instagram crashed in October 2021 for 5 hours. That event caused outrage, confusion, and questioning of the platform’s viability among its commercial and individual users. It even led to a US Congressional hearing.2
Operating and maintaining a domain, social media account, or other online business account requires a large investment of time and money. Their value can increase quickly with effective branding, consistent activity, and ad revenue or user growth. It could be catastrophic to lose one of those accounts due to a lack of succession planning, which could result in subscription expiration, inactivity, data auto-deletion, or content provider lockout. In fact, simple mistakes could cost your business millions of dollars in lost revenue, value, and future opportunities. And unfortunately, in many cases, these losses are irrecoverable.
5. Operational Failure
Losing access to one or more of your online accounts doesn’t only mean consequences for you, it can also lead to significant problems for your account holders and clients. They rely on their content providers to remain steady, continuously provide their service, and maintain privacy and security. Unstable online accounts can even lead to business disruption or total collapse. You simply don’t know the valuable and vital data that may be lost with a business account. From financial turmoil to disappearing legacies and communications, failure to properly transfer your online accounts could be devastating. Take the example of Amazon, which experienced an hours-long outage in December 2021. Packages were delayed, businesses dependent on the Cloud were interrupted, and personal lives were disrupted.3 It is an event whose consequences are still being calculated.
6. Local, Federal, and International Jurisdictions
There is not just one organization that oversees the transfer process online. In reality, numerous agencies could have jurisdiction over your online accounts, and they might be located all over the world. Content providers, for example, that are based in certain communities have to comply with local laws, but their account holders may have different expectations based on their location. This means that international laws may govern the disclosure of your information and the transfer of the asset, but not apply to the content provider. They may even conflict completely.
Digital asset succession planning, while not talked about nearly enough, is a critical component of maintaining a personal or professional presence online. It doesn’t come without its risks though; digital asset succession planning can be hard! Resources, like Directive Communication Systems, and Trusted Legacy can help. Visit our websites to[LP1] learn more about how we help you avoid consequences, like investment loss or lowered reputation today.