One thing many people forget when making their Will is what will happen to their digital assets once they die. In today’s online world, however, this is something we should all now consider. With more and more people holding more digital assets or accounts understanding the impacts of our online presence should not be ignored.
According to recent research by the Oxford Internet Institute, 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. Add to this the many other sources of digital data-information, files, money or any other electronic footprint which may require action of some sort on our death, and it’s easy to see how problems can mount up if these are not dealt with carefully and effectively.
What is digital legacy?
A person’s digital legacy is all of the online information that they will leave behind when they pass away. 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
– Purchases that are stored online (e.g. music, photos, eBooks etc)
– Access to online financial accounts
Do you own your digital legacy?
What about Loyalty scheme Providers?
Loyalty providers, can set their own rules on whether points or cashback accrued can be passed on when someone dies.
What about Digital downloads?
Sadly, not all digital assets can be transferred in their digital format. Many people might be surprised to learn that purchases such as e-books and digital music cannot be passed on to their loved ones, as the right to access those lies only with the owner. This is because it is the right to listen to particular music or watch a given film that is purchased, and this right cannot be assigned or another on death.
This may hit millennials particularly hard, with Royal London estimating that, over the course of a lifetime, someone aged 34 today could build up a digital legacy worth up to £7,700, which could not be passed on to friends and family.
What about social media and other user accounts?
Organisations and applications such as Facebook, Instagram, Microsoft and Google typically provide their users with a range of options for how an account should be treated on death. These most commonly include:-
– Memorialisation – In the case of Facebook, for example, accounts which are memorialised 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 – All account content and information is removed.
– 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 production of 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?
Bank accounts are counted as part of your free estate. This means that your bank accounts will be managed by the executors of your will. You don’t need to change your online banking. After you’ve died, however, your family, friends or executors of your 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.
With each year, our online footprint widens and deepens. The increasing prevalence of digital assets necessitates greater 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, the task of closing accounts, transferring online funds, or dealing with any related complication may take as long – if not longer – than dealing with physical assets.
Wish it was simpler? Yes, so do we.