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Building a digital legacy for your children

Creating a "digital trust fund" may help junior in an increasingly wired world.

Tess Vigeland: While we're on the subject of kids, here's something you can do for them that costs almost nothing. It's called a "digital trust fund."

The first time I heard of it was in a conversation with New Orleans financial planner Jude Boudreaux. We were talking outside a Starbucks in the Garden District there and I asked him to explain.

Jude Boudreaux: Having control of your identity online is important, as we all know. Being able to capture things, like domain names is a real benefit for a child. Occassionally as a planner, we deal with monetary trust funds, which are things that we set aside for children. I think a digital trust fund is the same idea. So my daughter's 13 months old. Once we knew we were having a girl, we knew what the name was going to be. So I went ahead and bought her domain name and set up a Gmail account and a Twitter account. She'll always have control over her domain, LucyBoudreaux.com and she'll be able to do whatever she wants to with that. And who knows what that will be years from now, but being able to control your own name, I think, is a real plus in an increasingly digital and search-oriented world.

So what, exactly, is the benefit down the line? Well, as he said, it's all about being able to control your own real estate. If Boudreaux's daughter becomes some sort of public figure, she doesn't have to go pay someone who already got her domain name, a cyber squatter. A teenaged Lucy can keep a disgruntled ex-boyfriend from creating a web page in her name. And because her page will be as old as she is, she's more likely to come up first when someone searches her name.

But as with anything involving children, or adults for that matter -- what about privacy concerns?

Boudreaux: Gmail is without the password, you can't access it. The Twitter account is protected, so you have to send a follow request in order to follow my daughter's exploits at daycare and other things. Because I've set it up through Hootsuite, so I can tweet out things through her profile. But, we can keep that private through that as well. And if we had anything on her personal domain, it would be one thing, but right now we don't. So, we don't have any privacy concerns there.

But given how fast the digital world moves, you'd be justified in asking why bother with something that may be gone in 60 seconds or six months.

Boudreaux: You know, I can see all of those things being somewhat transient. But it's also free. The benefit of having the Gmail address is I can point all these other things to it. It doesn't have to exist off of my e-mail address. And so if I'm gonna have another e-mail address anyway, might as well be one that's usable for her later on in life. You know, things like Twitter may become obsolete and if it does, I lost very little bit of time creating a profile. And if it doesn't, then we've got something that will have some value for her later in life.

You know, it's a very small investment. The only thing you have to pay for in terms of all these things I've talked about is a domain name. Probably, five to 10 bucks a year.

So there you go, something for the virtual stocking! Jude's firm is Upperline Financial in New Orleans.

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.
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Jude Boudreaux's suggestions meet the very definition of cyber-squatting. Buy a URL you may well never use, preventing it from use by someone else in the service of your own selfish interests.

Let's say your unborn kid's name is John Doe, so you buy the URL and then twenty years later haven't done a thing with it, meanwhile *another* John Doe who is an artist, entrepreneur, what have you, wants to buy the URL because you've got it locked up. Now how is that right? And in fact were the other John Doe to go through ICANN procedures to take the site back from you he would likely win.

In the end this is another big reach by the overzealous parents of "special" kids. If your child needs a domain name when the time comes, so be it, get it then, but don't keep it from the rest of the world as it may be put to good use elsewhere. The upside is that you could put the money you'd save (a lot if you reserve all the .com, .org, .net variations of their name) and put it into a 529 plan for their college education.

Isn't that just a little ridiculous? What about all the various URL suffixes a vindictive boyfriend or anyone else for that matter could use?

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