HOUSTON - With as much time as we spend online, with social media, or conducting business, a lot of us are leaving a significant digital trail behind us. Unfortunately, planning what happens to it, when we're gone, can be a costly mistake.
You may recall the story of the San Francisco man who lost $250 million dollars in Bitcoin, because he couldn't remember the password. Now, imagine what will happen to our own digital assets, once we pass, if our heirs can't get to them.
Houston tech expert Juan Guevara-Torres had his own experience with this dilemma.
"My father died in 2012, and I was a trusted person for the bank accounts, but we never were able to unlock the phone," he remembers, "All the pictures that were there, were lost."
While there are no obvious statistics, many of us are probably not paying much attention to the fate of our digital footprint.
"I'm not an attorney, but it might be a good idea to say who gets what, in terms of digital assets, digital goods, and digital currency," argues Guevara-Torres.
Let's start with all the passwords you use, particularly financial ones. Write them down, on paper or in a secure file, and put the list in the hands of a trusted friend or family.
Next, turn to your social media accounts. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have a process to name a 'legacy-contact' who can handle your account when you die. You'll find it in the settings.
There might be elements of your online history that you'd prefer no one saw. Google has an auto-delete feature that you can enable or it happens automatically after 18 months of inactivity.
And you might think about locking your phone. It can be done directly, on iPhones, while Android devices need an app. Both will lock the device after a set number of failed passwords.
"It's very important that you put steps in place to make sure that if you're not around, or disabled for some reason, that somebody else can take over and rescue that information," says Guevara-Torres.
It's important to note that none of these steps happen without us taking 'direct action' to make it happen. While unpleasant to think about our mortality, it's a vital part of 'adulting' that keeps us from saddling our heirs with an extra headache.