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What happens to your digital legacy when you die?

 

With an ever increasing amount of our lives documented online it’s perhaps unsurprising that many people are now asking ‘what happens to my online legacy when I die?’

While you are able to control who can have access to your online bank account (which is dealt with in the same way as traditional assets), you may have little control over who can access your digital legacy, with beneficiaries named in your Will not necessarily having the legal right to access your accounts. 

So what are some of the policies when it comes to accessing accounts once someone has died?

Facebook allows the executor of a Will to request that the account is shut down or memorialised.  However, the executor would only be able to see information that they would have been able to access when the account holder was alive.  Facebook also retains all of the information about the deceased even after they have passed away.

Twitter allows the executor to have an account deactivated but it will not allow that person to access the account directly.  Just like Facebook, Twitter retains all of the information that it holds on the individual who has died. 

Google (including Gmail, Google Plus and Google Drive) say that they deal with each case individually and always retain data on the person. 

All three of these networks would not clarify whether they would allow an individual to have access to a digital account if this wish was specified in the deceased’s Will. However, you can make arrangements before you die which will allow your executor or heirs to have full access to your accounts. 

Many companies now offer services that allow you to manage your digital assets, including a service that saves all of your passwords. If you have a significant digital presence you may also want to seek professional advice, as some laws which govern digital assets can be complex. 

Tom Curran, Chief Executive at Kings Court Trust said: “Digital assets that have a sentimental value, such as photographs and videos, are likely to be assets you want to preserve. However, there may also be assets which you would like to be destroyed, such as personal correspondence. No matter what your intention is, it is important that you are able to inform your executor what you would like them to do with your accounts so that your final wishes can be carried out.”

This blog was written as part of the ‘Big Conversation’ campaign which is being run by the Dying Matters coalition which is looking to raise the public’s awareness of dying, death and bereavement. To find out more please visit dyingmatters.org