Wednesday, November 26th0.1°C
Guest Columnist

Protect your digital assets

It used to be that you knew what to do with all the memorabilia of your life. You'd put it in a box to give to your kids, or you'd write it into your will. But these days, the most complete record of your life may be online.

The Internet plays a major role in most of our lives and we store immense amount of information from our personal and professional lives online including our email accounts, utility bills, insurance policies, social media pages, digital albums, and online bank accounts. It’s been estimated that this growing personal digital footprint amounts to 88 gigabytes of data per person by the age of 75. These digital assets are valuable to us both emotionally and financially and these digital assets need to be managed like any other asset and protected after we pass away.

The question of what to do with digital assets has recently developed into a serious concern, as loved ones try to deal with scattered and inaccessible online identities of deceased family members. Globally, users and companies are still dealing with a nebulous legal and regulatory framework and lack of protocol when it comes to planning for digital assets after death. In the absence of appropriate planning and protection, your memories can be lost or inaccessible, valuable assets can be lost, and a deceased assets can be at risk for identify theft.

Digital Assets have real financial value associated with them. While items such as e-wallets, Bitcoins and popular domain names may have direct financial worth, a Twitter account with a lot of followers or a popular Facebook account is actually a valuable marketing platform. Last year, McAfee released the results of a global digital assets survey, and estimated that our digital devices hold an estimated $35,000 of value on average.  

These valuable assets can become an easy target for identity thieves. Identities of approximately 2.5 million deceased Americans were stolen last year and this creates a huge financial and emotional burden for people who are left behind to deal with it.

But probably the most important risk of not managing digital assets is that memories are at risk of being lost forever. The McAfee report stated that 55% of respondents expressed that their digital assets are impossible to recreate, download or purchase again.

So where should you start to protect and plan for your digital assets? Follow these three planning tips:

1. Take an inventory of all your digital accounts - these include all of your email accounts, blogs, online backup programs, photo and document-sharing sites, financial accounts, iTunes libraries, home utilities managed online, sound, video and photo files.

2. Keep your digital asset information in a safe place – other than an old fashioned list, Google and iCloud have capabilities for this and there are many other password management software application and apps you can use.

3. Decide how you want your assets to be handled and state your intentions in your will. Decide what you want and then provide your instructions to your executor, or a different family member or friend as your digital estate executor in your will.


Planning ahead for the management of your digital assets will help minimize the emotional and financial loss that your loved ones may experience. Be sure to update your will to include clear instructions about how you want your digital assets to be managed to ensure that your wishes are carried out.



Jody Pihl is a Wills and Estates Lawyer at Pihl Law Corporation. Contact Jody at [email protected] or visit the website at


For Sale: used election signs

Several months ago I decided to run for office in the District of Summerland. There were a number of factors in my decision. I thought I could do a good job on council, I had a strong sense of wanting to give back to my community and I was unhappy with the current representation. Council receives about $11,000 per year in Summerland, for a 10-20 hour per week commitment which can be an incentive for some people.

I went to see the elections officer at City Hall, which in Summerland is a lady by the name of Maureen Fugeta. She did an amazing job of babysitting all the candidates through our election gaffs and helped us with many aspects of the process (thanks Maureen, you are AWESOME!!). Once you receive a nomination package, you need to have some residents sign your nomination papers. Once I filed, I received additional information from the elections officer, and also from Elections BC. You are officially on the ballot as a candidate.

5 Man Electrical Band released a song;

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind


Sign placement is an art. I ordered 50 signs, double-sided, with wire stakes. There are a lot of options and it all depends on your budget. I spent about $500. Then I needed to order stickers to add to the sign because Elections BC has new requirements for signs that some of us missed.

The next major component was presenting your platform. People wanted to know where I sat on lots of issues, and with the campaign in Summerland, we had a hot topic in the proposed ALR Land swap. Then you start writing, alot. Many organizations ask for responses to questions. Some of the questions were difficult to answer and required some research. I spend about $200 dollars on developing a brochure (black and white, double sided) and quickly ran out.

We had two major ‘forums’ where we responded to public questions, and we also were invited as a group to attend specific organizations. As time went on I was genuinely impressed by the caliber of candidates. I found myself doing strange things like the ‘double handshake’ (omg…I’m so sorry…), and speaking in a strange political talk (“I hear what you are are saying, and first I would like to say I appreciate that question”).

I felt elated by the positive response I received and thought I was a front runner. I was excited and nervous leading up to the election. In my case, with about 4300 voters, I received less than 25% of the vote (874), and failed to get elected. I was depressed, dejected and disappointed. I wish I had been better at reaching out to ask for support as it was a lot of work. Spending more will improve your chances of winning. I have to say my opinion of politicians has changed. It’s a very difficult job and the experience was rewarding.

I lay in bed, head buried in a tear stained pillow and my wife says, “Well, at least next time you won’t have to buy signs…” Next time? There won’t be a next time…well…I don’t know…it’s a bit soon to decide…seems a waste to just throw away the signs…not really an environmentally sound decision…hey...the environment is a hot topic these days…


Article submitted by Mark Smed.

If you have questions or comments, contact Mark at [email protected].

Vertical gardens: dig in!

Recently I watched a news segment on the popularity of vertical gardens in Vancouver and thought this was the perfect solution for the south side of my house. A vertical garden is when you grow plants in some sort of frame, using pots to minimize water usage and space requirements. I have a narrow strip of land between my fence and the house. My green thumb is a particularly unhealthy shade of green thus my gardening skills are pretty limited. I’ve killed raspberry bushes - not proud - just sayin’.

I created a frame using 4x4 posts, approximately 8 ft. apart. I used 1x4 boards to run between the posts. The boards on the front and back are 11” apart, vertically. I did the same along the back, with 2 inches offset so the back row was lower. This creates a slope that a typical 1 gallon plant pot fits perfectly into. The pot is actually locked in place by three points. I used 2x4 metal joist hangers and considered running a 2x4 along the back to support the weight but the 1x4 seems to work fine. I did drill a hole and secure it with a bolt.

Initially I created a trickle irrigation system, with a line into each pot. With limited water pressure, I was forced to install valves so I could isolate each row and water one row at a time. Watering the whole garden takes 15 minutes and when it was hot, I was forced to do it at least twice a day. I created a ‘fertilizer tank’ using 3” black PVC pipe and attached it to one of the end posts. The top opens and I can dump in fertilizer.

Next year I want to build some temporary plastic walls to enclose it to extend the growing season in the spring and fall. I would also like to automate the water system with timers and I want to put a trough along the bottom for larger plants like zucchini, cabbage and cukes. The system drains very well, and the plants in the bottom would likely not require irrigation. If I had filled the top row, I could fit about 100 pots, and with a trough on the bottom, you could easily produce a lot of produce (little pun there)!

I grew cabbages, carrots, tomatoes, lettuce and a whole variety of items. Peppers did very well, but were small. Carrots were sometimes 6 in a pot, with a mixture of long and short. My one pepper plant was 3 ft. long and my eggplant flowered very late, and I only harvested a single, small fruit. Well, would you look at that…my thumb’s changing colour to a healthier green!

If you have questions, feel free to drop me a line at [email protected].


How do billionaires invest?

This week I got a hold off the newly published Billionaire Census from Wealth-X and UBS. It revealed that the 2,325 world’s richest people are holding an average of $600 million in cash - each. That equates to about 19% of their total net worth. It’s roughly a 10% jump from the year before. Somewhat surprisingly perhaps, it’s also five times more than their real estate holdings. Staggering statistics, but what could we derive from this information?

I’m hawking the global financial trends and have conversations with many of the brightest professionals and investors in the world. Many interpret the stockpile of cash on the sidelines as a potential influx to drive stock prices even higher. Without a doubt there is a lot of money that needs to make some decent yield. With stock prices at an all-time high, interest rates (and bond returns) near an all-time low; every asset class seems squeezed for the last drop of low-risk return.

And yet, the billionaires (and their top notch advisors) are still on the sidelines for almost 20% of their holdings, and growing. They are well aware that inflation is slowly diminishing their capital power. But they haven’t found a better alternative yet – but surely are on the lookout every day.

I personally am of the opinion that the cash reserves will actually drive the appetite for more risky investments. However, likely not so much in the traditional assets such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Risk versus rewards ratios have already been pushed to outer boundaries. The class of private investments (also referred to as Direct Investments) still has many new and undiscovered gems. This asset class is growing and will surely continue to grow. Plus, in today’s global economy, cash is easily moved past borders. It can quite easily be invested in another country than our own. The world has become a smaller place.

There is currently a growing trend whereby wealthy individuals, Family Offices and fund managers are sharing investments in private deals. These syndicates or co-investments used to be reserved for the haut-finance world. With so much cash actively seeking alternative opportunities to make a return, the money is collaborating to identify these deals and take advantage of them.

These opportunities are widely available, from local start-ups to larger private equity deals. It provides a tremendous chance to be part of the next big thing, before it becomes as big as Google or Amazon. The trick is to cherry pick the very best opportunities, negotiate a Shark-like deal and use your connections to help the investment succeed. That’s why the Billionaires have 46.7% of their assets in private investment holdings. And a war chest of $600 million each to deploy. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all have that problem? We would syndicate together and seek the best opportunities in the world to put our money to work.



André Voskuil is a leading Alternative Investment strategist and Qualified Family Office Professional who specializes in counseling his Inner Circle clients in regards to their specific investments in this exciting class of opportunities. You can find out more about André at

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