Do You Really Know Why Digital Legacy Planning Matters To You?

All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.
— Susan Sontag

In the event of a house fire, what would you take with you? The standard answer used to be photograph albums. Why? Photos can remind us of our human mortality. We can look at faded images of those we have loved in the past and they can live again in our minds.

In the present, we can hold tightly on to rich memories of our life through vivid images in our minds that can never be taken away. Now, if you close your eyes, you could bring to remembrance one of those special times. 

Savour it. 

Our memories today are mostly digital representations of those beautiful moments. We snap the sunset on that unforgettable holiday, the last birthday party for Grandpa or the birth of our first child. Photographic repesentations of mortality.

Snap. Snap. Snap.

Digital memories stored for future recollections. A legacy created over a lifetime. Our life story in photographs and video. Never in history has it been so easy to record our lives. 

Those digital memories are priceless. Irreplaceable. 

What If Your Memories ARE Locked Away And No Key Is Available?

What happens when those memories are locked away and no longer accessible? Worse it could be those precious memories of someone you love. It could be they are a few clicks of a keyboard from access. But, they might as well be on another planet for all the admittance you can get to them?

The Loss Of A Son

Morgan Hehir was attacked and killed on a night out in Nuneaton in Warwickshire, UK. He and his friends were on their way to a Halloween party on 31st October 2015. Morgan was only 20. It is hard to comprehend what loss like that must be to experience as a parent.

Morgan was an aspiring musician. Now his family wants to access the music, memories and pictures on the Mac computer he owned. However, they are locked out by a password they do not know. 

He dad, Colin said recently in an article in The Independent, "He sent snapshots of his music and him messing around with his friends; he would send them little skits, so we know there is music on there as well as his photos, it’s all on this Macbook.” 

Locked Out? - A Court Order Is The Key

Colin Hehir contacted Apple asking for help. They acknowledge the sheer difficulty and sadness of the situation. However, Apple says his parents need to get a court order to access songs written by their 20-year-old son stored on his computer.

An Apple spokesman said in a statement given to the BBC: “In the absence of permission for third-party access to an account, it is impossible to be certain what access the user would have wanted, and we do not consider it is appropriate that Apple make the decision.

Too right! It is not Apple's position to unlock a computer. I don't think they should make data freely available that doesn't belong to them. Even, I believe, if they have a court order. Maybe the son would not want his parents to access that data? Who knows? The sad outcome is stress, heartache, and pain for the parents. Sad, when their grief is raw and daily present reality. 

This is not an isolated case. The FBI were fighting through the courts for Apple to unlock the iPhone of a terrorist. In the end, they went elsewhere to access it. However, even that debate is still raging. Moreover, it will continue.

Who Owns Your Digital Legacy?

“We’re only asking for our data, that these companies are protecting for us. Morgan owns the computer; Morgan owns the data, but Apple owns the access. It’s so frustrating." Said Colin Hehir. Going on he poignantly comments.

“It essentially means if you store everything on your computer, you lose your history and memories.”

That is true. True, unless you take steps and encourage those that you love to take to create a digital legacy plan. A plan that involves sharing passwords to your digital memories.  

Unlocking The Memories Can Be Easy

Do have priceless memories held on digital devices?

Are those devices password protected?

Whom have you told what that password is?

Digital legacy planning is still in its infancy. It needs to become part of standard estate planning. "I do not need a will, I do not have anything to leave," is a common thread I hear. However, one sad lesson from this tragic story is in this digital age our priceless memories held in millions of pixels are acres of diamonds in the ground. Take steps to protect them.