What are you leaving online when you die?

One thing many people forget when making their will is what you are leaving online when you die.

In today’s online world, knowing what will happen to your digital history is something we should all now consider.

We must understand the impacts of our online presence and what we leave online when we die, as more and more people hold more digital assets or accounts.

The Oxford Institute’s recent research found that there will be nearly 5 billion deceased Facebook members by 2100.

Facebook is one of potentially hundreds of platforms or systems on which clients may be, or may have been, active.

If we don’t carefully and effectively deal with the many other sources of digital information, files, money, or any different electronic footprint that may require action on our death, problems can mount up.

What is digital legacy?

A person’s digital legacy is all the information you will leave online when you die. This could include:-

– Websites and blogs
– Social media accounts
– Online photos and videos
– Gaming/forum profiles
– Seller accounts on platforms such as Amazon, eBay, etc
– Online purchases such as music, photos, and eBooks
– Access to online financial accounts

Do you own your digital legacy?

What about Loyalty scheme Providers?

Loyalty providers can set rules for passing on points or cashback accrued when someone dies.

What about Digital downloads?

Sadly, not all digital assets can be transferred in their digital format.

Many people would be surprised to learn that e-books and digital music cannot be passed on to their loved ones.

The right to access those lies only with the owner.

On death, the right to listen to a particular music or watch a given film that is purchased cannot be assigned to another.

This may hit millennials particularly hard. Royal London estimates that, throughout a lifetime, someone aged 34 today could build up a digital legacy worth up to £7,700.

You may not pass this on to friends and family

What about social media and other user accounts?

Facebook, Instagram, Microsoft, and Google typically provide users with various options for how an account should be treated on death.

These most commonly include:-

– Memorialisation – In the case of Facebook, for example, memorialised accounts include the word “remembering, next to the person’s name on their profile. If permissions allow, friends can also share memories of the deceased.
– Deletion – Deletion removes all account content and information

– Create a legacy contact – This option allows the individual to nominate a person who will have access to the account after death.

– Permission to access content – Some platforms allow users to provide specific permission to access content on producing a grant of probate, death certificate, or other evidence of death, along with proof of a person’s relationship with the deceased.

What about online banking?

The law counts bank accounts as part of your free estate. This means that the executors of your will will manage your bank accounts. You don’t need to change your online banking.

Read here how to stay safe with online banking.

After you’ve died, however, your family, friends or executors will need to tell your bank. Leaving a record so that your executors are at least aware of the various accounts you might hold is advisable.

Read here why it is important that your Will is accessible.

With each year, our online footprint widens and deepens. The increasing prevalence of digital assets necessitates more significant time and planning to ensure that up-to-date information is available to the personal representatives of our estates.

For those tasked with managing digital assets, closing accounts, transferring online funds, or dealing with any related complication may take as long – if not longer – than dealing with physical assets.