World Bytes

World Bytes: Estate Planning, Digital Inheritance and Passwords

By Terrance Malkinson

The question of what happens, upon an individual’s death, to his digital property (and password access to that property) is taking on increasing importance. In an age of digital information storage and electronic technologies, password and other access code management has become a critical and often-overlooked part of estate planning. Executors responsible for administering your estate will need to have access to intellectual and technology property that are password protected. Privacy of your personal information is also a consideration. Online bank accounts and credit cards are but only one aspect of the issue and all financial institutions have appropriate policies. However, you must plan for many other considerations.

Your password-protected digital intellectual property may have considerable value. Your email account, social media, images, personal websites, and various password-protected technologies including personal computers, cellphones and home security systems, to name but a few, must also be considered in your estate planning. You should also examine the policies of any customer loyalty plans such as airline points that you might have and the options that are available to transfer the points upon your death. Your instructions as well as account passwords should be included in your estate documentation. It is important to discuss this with your lawyer and make appropriate arrangements so that your executors will be able to manage your estate effectively and in congruence with statutory regulations.

Depending upon your circumstances, you may even want to have a digital executor ” someone who is computer savvy to manage your estate. Digital inheritance can be legally complex ” and expensive ” if you have not considered it in your estate planning. Your beneficiaries and executors will be grateful that you had the foresight to make their responsibilities somewhat easier.

Other Bytes

  • The December 2015 issue of Entrepreneur [pp. 73-83,] summarizes the annual Princeton Review’s top 25 US graduate and undergraduate entrepreneurship programs. Based on a survey of more than 2,000 schools the survey’s methodology looked at a number of important factors. Harvard Business School, Babson College and the University of Chicago lead the ranking for graduate education. In the case of undergraduate education Babson College, Brigham Young University and the University of Houston led the ranking. The Princeton Review publishes a very compressive book The Best 380 Colleges, 2016 Edition that is written for any student or parent providing the facts and information needed to make a good decision when selecting an educational provider []. In the same issue [“Degree of Uncertainty,” pp. 64-71] Jason Daley reports on the opinions of two researchers debating the question “Is a business degree worth the time and expense?”
  • Fortune’s 2015 business person of the year is Mark Parker; CEO of Nike [FORTUNE, 172(7):95-102, December 2015,]. Profiled by Adam Lashinsky, Mark has doubled revenues and profits for the footwear and apparel giant accompanied with a six-fold increase in its stock price. The author describes how he accomplished this and how he plans to continue doing so. The article concludes with the statement “at Nike, there is no finish line”. Immediately following this article Scott Cendrowski et. al. profiles the other nineteen top business leaders in the ranking [pp. 104-111].
  • In “Harvesting Greatness” [Community College Journal, 86(2): 16-21, November 2015,], Heather Boerner describes how with the support of the US Department of Agriculture rural community colleges are expanding campuses and helping communities and their local economy. Students benefit in many ways by attending college at a location near their home and because of personal circumstances this is the only way that they will be able to further their education. A subsequent related article in the same issue by Denis Pierce [“A Promising Development,” pp. 22-25] discusses the American College Promise Program [] which enables high school graduates to attend a community college tuition free.
  • The Industrial Wireless Evolution is the cover story of the October 2015 issue of InTech, [62(5): pp. 10-14,]. Soliman Al-Walaie discusses the development of the next generation process automation wireless technology. The technology is now an essential business enabler facilitating safety, control and monitoring for industrial automation utilizing the Internet of Things, big data analytics and cloud computing.
  • Scientific American profiles ten advances that will improve life, transform computing, and have the potential to make the earth sustainable. [313(6): 30-39, December 2015,]. Developments including “Eye-Controlled Machines”, “Microwave Rocketry,” “Injectable Electronic Brain Probes,” and “Self-learning Machines” are but a few of these. A subsequent article pp. 40-53 profiles some of the idea and inventions that have changed the world and are chronicled in the Scientific American archives from 170 years of publication.
  • The January 2016 issue of Discover focuses on a review of the year in science [“100 top Stories of 2015,”]. Stories include the stunning first images of the planet Pluto from NASA deep space probe, the discovery of fossils in an underground cave that could bring information on a new human species the destruction of cultural artifacts in the Middle East, climate change, new insights on comets by the Rosetta probe, ethical issues associated with altering human DNA, and many, many other stories of interest to all enthusiasts of advancements in science.
  • The 100 Greatest Innovations of the year are profiled in the December 2015 issue of Popular Science’s “28th Annual Best of What’s New” [287(6):19- 60, December 2015,]. Categories of innovations include those in entertainment, automotives, gadgets, security, aerospace, software, health, the home, recreation, and engineering.
  • In a research report published in Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews [“The Role of Exercise-Induced Cardiovascular Adaptation in Brain Health,” 43(4):181-189, October 2015,], Takashi Tarami and Rong Zhang review scientific evidence that exercise induced cardiovascular adaptations play an important role in improving brain performance, structure, and function. A harmonic relationship exists between the intensity of exercise and brain health.

Terrance Malkinson is a communications specialist, business analyst and futurist. He is an IEEE Senior Life Member and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine and the World Future Society. He is currently an international correspondent for IEEE-USA InSight, an associate editor for IEEE Canadian Review, editor-in-chief IEEE TEMS Leader, and a member of the editorial advisory board of the IEEE Institute. Additionally, he leads a number of applied research projects. The author is grateful to the staff and resources of the Reg Erhardt library at SAIT Polytechnic and the Haskayne Business Library of the University of Calgary. He can be reached at

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the author and not necessarily those of IEEE or IEEE-USA.


Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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