What will happen to your ‘digital life’ when you die?

Some thoughts on passing on your digital memories, amongst other things…

Winter used to be a time when I would sit by the fire and spend time making up photo albums from the year gone by. A cosy heart-warming thing to do on a cold evening, looking though memories of summer days and reminiscing about holidays, family and friends seen earlier in the year.  I still have the photo albums I used to make up on a shelf, but sadly the shelf has not been added to for a good many years now, ever since I bought an iPhone really.

A friend and I were chatting the other evening about this and how much our lives have changed in the last decade with the arrival of the smart phone and the digital revolution.  For the better in many ways, with the convenience and speed unimaginable only a few years ago, enabling people feel connected, wherever they are.  However, with so much stored online these days, perhaps should we stop to consider what happens to it all when we die.

When did you last buy a photo album for example? They seem rather a quaint idea now in this digital age don’t they? Most of us probably hardly print out any photos now and just flick through them on our phones every so often when we have an idle moment or two.

However, our children and grandchildren won’t be able to look at our photos in the years to come as we used to do if we don’t put something in place to give them access to our ‘cloud’ or however we choose to store these precious images.  The same might apply to your online music collection.  In years gone by we might have left our records and CDs to someone but again, increasingly we buy our music online too.

The idea of including a digital element in your Will  has become a pressing issue in recent years, and of course extends to a multitude of things from online banking, loyalty points, PayPal, eBay, to social media, as well as those priceless memories. 

So, what do I need to do?

The main thing is to pull together a list of all your online accounts, including social media profiles, bank accounts, email accounts and profiles you may have on entertainment sites, including the web address and the user name or ID associated with it and specify your wishes for each. E.g. do you want access to photos and videos to be given to a specific person and do you want your social media profiles to be closed or memorialised?  Facebook allows accounts to be ‘memorialised’ but accounts can only be memorialised if you have designated a Facebook Friend as a ‘legacy contact’ in your settings. If you feel uncomfortable with your page being memorialised, you can check the preference for ‘delete after death’. This information should be stored alongside your will and a copy given to your executor.

Dividing your digital legacy up into ‘digital assets’ and ‘digital presence’ can help to give some structure to the task.  Digital assets would include music, films or books that are held digitally, as well as online banking and investments.  Your ‘digital presence’ would include social media or e-commerce accounts such as eBay and Amazon.

It should be noted that the Law Society advises against sharing your PINs or passwords with anyone. Your executors will not require this information to gain access to your accounts. Your executor will need to contact the various online services and request for these accounts to be closed. In most cases, they will just complete a form and provide a copy of the death certificate.

Accounts which save credit or debit card details can be problematic if they are left open after someone dies as they are vulnerable to hackers and fraudsters.  It is therefore extremely important that you include these in your Will to enable your executor to get the accounts closed.

Get in touch

At Penderlaw Solicitors, we can include a digital checklist section in your Will to avoid your loved ones struggling to locate your digital assets and presence and enable them to deal with them as you would wish. If you’d like to discuss making a Will with us, just drop us a line at info@penderlaw.co.uk or call us on 01872 241408.