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30 August 2016

Did you know you have a "digital estate" and why genealogists care

I was caught by the title of today's post on Upfront with NGS. It's "Digital Estate Planning Laws -- Relevant to Preserving "Your" Digital Genealogy Assets!" The post is pretty brief and includes some links you may want to check-out.
I wanted to stress the aspects of my digital genealogy records I'm concerned about. Each of us has different concerns but you might think, "I don't really care what happens to my..." Facebook account or Ancestry.com account. What's important to realize is it might not go away (I'm a little freaked out every time Facebook recommends I share something with someone that has been dead for years) BUT no one may be able to access it. The post calls this a "legal limbo" and that is probably the biggest issue most genealogists want to avoid.

DNA

For me, the thing I am most concerned about is DNA results. In a limbo state, the results will continue to show up as a match for people, but can someone take your place to respond or use the results for analysis? See the Upfront with NGS post for a bit about others having access.
This is probably also an issue you want to address for any relatives who control their own results (as opposed to you administering their results---which means you have full control, already). I know it is pretty easy to assign a "beneficiary" for results from FamilyTreeDNA (it's under "Account Settings"). I don't know about the other testing companies. It's at least difficult enough I haven't stumbled across it and possibly doesn't exist (leave a comment if you have an answer). I know I've read online information (probably blog posts) about this information in the past. You can try a search if you want to learn more and check out the links in the Upfront with NGS post for estate planning information.

Actual Research

My second "concern" would be making sure my trees from Ancestry.com could be accessed and passed on when appropriate. I have notes that reference my trees (usually unconfirmed relationships so there is no report or article that will provide that information). Those notes require the tree in order to be complete.

Worst Case

The worst that would happen if my trees were in legal limbo is someone else would have the fun of doing the research again. The DNA results are a bigger deal. I already have results from people that have since died. Those cannot be obtained again (even if/when we can get/afford results from a lock of hair or something similar, I know that won't be possible for some and I don't want to talk about exhumation). By the time I'm dead, I hope nearly all the results I administer are for deceased individuals (I'm a lot younger than most of the people I've had tested, so that would be normal).

Plan Accordingly

DNA results are pretty valuable to a genealogist. Any of your genealogy that you consider valuable should be treated like other "valuables" when it comes to estate planning. More and more genealogy is becoming a digital asset, though. Make sure you've considered this.

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