Don’t forget your digital legacy

When we think about what we will leave behind when we die, the majority of us take an approach that gives little regard to the vast amount of ‘digital assets’ that we hold. We write wills, take out life insurance policies, plan our funerals and arrange to leave money/assets to those that we care about. All of these steps make things easier for your family at a very difficult time.

However, most of us neglect our digital legacy. Few of us have measures in place to take care of our digital assets, something that has the potential to cause problems for our friends, family and colleagues.

It used to be that people’s estates could be settled in a standardised way: a search through the deceased’s filing cabinet would yield most of the information necessary to put their financial affairs in order. Their letters would still arrive through the door, allowing their family to take care of their communications after death and, where appropriate, advise their contacts of their passing.

Nowadays, much of our financial life takes place online – with traditional paper bank statements fading into oblivion. This can make it difficult for an executor to know what accounts you hold and where to find them. What’s more, your email accounts could become inaccessible and any important information on them lost. Inaccessible social media accounts mean that the deceased’s family are unable to close the account or inform friends of their relative’s passing. If we don’t plan for these matters, we can cause our family a logistical nightmare which, on top of the emotional stress of bereavement, may be overwhelming.

There are some important steps that you can take to help your family wind up your digital affairs smoothly. Keep an inventory, alongside your will, that includes the location of any digital devices you own. This should also contain a list of all your social, personal, financial and business account details.

This should include usernames but do avoid writing down passwords and security question answers (especially for bank accounts). A detailed list of all your online accounts with usernames and account numbers is enough. The Law Society advises against sharing your bank pins or passwords with anyone. Your executors will not need this information.

Finally, some of your online accounts have features in place for the account holder’s death. Google, for instance, gives you the option to set up an “Inactive Account Manager”, a trusted contact with access to certain aspects of the account, such as Gmail or Google Drive. Features such as these give a trusted person a level of control over your digital afterlife and can lessen your loved ones’ distress at a crucial time.

Most social media platforms have a policy explaining what to do when someone dies. There are also steps you can take now to choose what should happen to your profile after your death.

Further information is available here:-