The rise in smart technology has left us with a very modern problem – what happens to your digital assets when you die?

Where would we all be without technology? Social media, online banking, news alerts, Skype, What’s App, email accounts, electronic address books, the list is endless and according to Ofcom, there are now record numbers of older people using smart technology and social media. Their recent report ‘Adults’ media use and attitudes’ shows that a quarter of over 75s are now using tablet computers and that there has:

“been a significant increase in the number of internet users aged 75 and over embracing social media, with 41% having a social media profile in 2016, compared to 19% in 2015”

But what would happen if you were to die? Have you given any thought to your digital assets?

‘Digital assets’ describe the many accounts and websites we own or manage with examples including:

  • Email accounts
  • Social media profiles (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc.)
  • Online banking accounts

Knowing what you are managing is obviously key to deciding what you’d like to happen to these accounts after you die. This is where a list of your ‘digital footprint’ is essential: what accounts have you opened, signed up to and logged on to during your lifetime?

Remembering what accounts you run or what you’ve signed up to can seem quite a daunting challenge, so make a list and update it regularly. This list can also include login and password details, but remember to store these securely. If you don’t already keep your passwords stored in an accessible place, maybe consider writing them down and sealing in an envelope which can be kept with other important documents like your marriage certificate or Will.

If you do not decide to explain what you want to happen to these digital assets, your loved ones may overlook or be unable to find them which could be particularly problematic if you have set up an online bank account.

It is therefore important to leave clear instructions about which digital assets you wish to continue and those that should be closed upon your death.

Issues you should address include:

  • Which sites/accounts should continue or be closed down.
  • How you wish your online friends and acquaintances to be notified of your death.
  • Are there assets that you expressly do not want to be deleted or accessed?

 

Social media management

If you have any social media accounts, you should decide if you want memorialisation of your accounts (such as your Facebook page) upon your death. And also decide what messages (if any) you wish to be posted on your social media pages for the benefit of friends and family following your death?

Facebook, for example, has introduced a ‘legacy contact’ making the handing over your profile to someone else to manage in the event of your death very simple. Log into your account, click on the arrow on the top right of your page, go to settings and under ‘General Account Settings’ there is an option that reads ‘Manage account’.

You can then elect a legacy contact (must be someone who also uses Facebook) so that after you pass away, they will be able to update your profile picture and pin a message or photo to your timeline – for example they could provide details of a funeral service.

Rest assured though, your legacy contact will not be able to edit or delete any of your previous posts or read any of your private messages, so your privacy is still protected.

However, if you don’t feel the need to appoint a legacy contact and you would rather your account was deleted after you pass away, you can click to request account deletion instead.

The key thing to remember is that, like traditional assets, it is good practice to review your digital assets on a regular basis to ensure your final wishes are carried out.

 

Useful Resources:

Royds Withy King (solicitors who can help with digital assets)

Daily Mail (useful article: What will happen to YOUR social media accounts when you die?)

OFCOM

This article was written by Fiona Gilbert: Editor
Wise Old Elephant

Hello! I’m Fiona and I work behind the scenes with a fantastic team of independent health, care, legal & financial experts to bring interesting & informative content to the Wise Old Elephant site. Contact: enquiries@wiseoldelephant.co.uk