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Digital assets technology awareness: Pivoting to new paradigm

Friday, July 03, 2020 @ 8:22 AM | By Sharon Hartung

Sharon Hartung %>
Sharon Hartung
You have probably heard the term “WFH” recently. This is the acronym for “Work From Home” used by the tele-work crowd. Pre-pandemic these three letters may have appeared in an individual’s instant messaging status, or used in a response to a text message, as in “WRU?” Answer: “WFH.” Translation for those that still embrace luddite status: “Where are you? / Working from home.”

Now, WFH is beyond a strategy; it is an operational dependency. Over the years, some organizations have had a bumpy ride shifting to remote workers. Enablement issues, such as supplying home-based employees with secure Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for connectivity, to policy and practice issues, such as the implications of client reactions to virtual relationships, were all considerations. What may have been a cost-reduction exercise or an employee incidental benefit is now a standard.

Although digital engagement was already pervasive, organizations, including our own federal legislature, have taken virtual interaction, meetings and communication to the next level as conferences, gatherings, education and all face-to-face meetings were cancelled. Individuals of all ages quickly adapted to online engagement moving beyond the telephone.

Now that we are months into this new way of working, the private sector and public sector are questioning if their employees will ever completely return to work in physical locations. Twitter recently announced that its employees will have the choice to work remotely forever. CIOs, CTOs and IT providers who enabled this pandemic pivot for their respective entities will be further challenged to stabilize and expand IT to support phased reopenings, new digitization strategies and the adoption of the pandemic digital norm. In my opinion, the technology strategies that organizations and individuals adopted out of necessity may evolve to mandatory ways of doing business for client value delivery, cost reduction and enhanced efficiency. Pandemic operational models will become the competitive norm.

If it wasn’t already, similar to the virtual workplace, the home front is digitally dependent. Depending on the size of your family, there may have been a scramble to ensure enough bandwidth and for reliable connectivity and enough physical devices for everyone to have Internet access. Overnight, requirements went beyond the luxury of high-speed video streaming to uninterrupted online access for distance learning.

Estate planning implications

When considering client estate planning, each one of these examples represents online interactions involving digital assets that could have financial or sentimental value:

1. Virtual conferencing apps, once reserved for business, have expanded into family connection tools with many of the big tech providers providing free access during the pandemic, examples such as:

  • Skype;
  • Apple FaceTime;
  • Zoom;
  • BlueJeans;
  • Google Hangout;
  • Slack;
  • WhatsApp Video Call;
  • Facebook Live;
  • Twitter live chat; and
  • New entrants such as Houseparty.

2. What may have been a luxury of online restaurant food ordering and grocery shopping with home delivery or curbside pickup has become the norm along with burgeoning new services such as meal kit delivery, takeout delivery services and curbside pickups. With the requirement of two-week quarantines, if exposure is suspected and social distancing required, grocery stores or restaurants, which haven’t closed, have shifted to these new models.

3. Ease-of-interaction with financial institutions for online and mobile banking, and the desire for low- to no-touch payment methods inevitably leads to the concern that the pandemic will further drive a shift away from paper currency, potentially increasing the volume of a client’s digital accounts.

4. With large gatherings forbidden and travel restricted, virtual or Zoom funerals and online faith-based services are a new and evolving phenomena.

More estate planning implications in the next article.

This is the second of a three-part series. Read part one: Digital assets technology awareness: Adapting to change; part three: Digital assets technology awareness: Opportunities for estate lawyers.

Sharon Hartung, TEP, is the founder and principal of Your Digital Undertaker and has over 30 years of experience in IT management, project management and consulting. She is the author of the newly published Your Digital Undertaker — Exploring Death in the Digital Age in Canada.

Photo credit / mipan ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

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