How do we protect our digital legacy after we die?

Woman sitting at a computer - protecting your digital legacy

News & Insights

MoneyPlus Features Team

24th March 2017 at 1:17pm

Most of us live, and keep, much of our lives online.

Photos, selfies, videos, events – you name it – we share, watch and plan our lives on Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and more.

Then there are the photos, bills, donations, tax returns, TV licences, receipts, music and e-books online, lurking in our emails, laptops or iPads.

The great thing about it all is that we’re more connected with family, friends and people all over the world. We learn more and know more. Keeping everything online is more manageable.

But what would happen to it all should something happen to you?

We look at what you need to consider.

Where is everything kept – and do you have a Will?

It can be a rather direct question, but have you made a Will?

If you have, does it cover your digital and online life as well as more traditional assets such as your money, home and valuables?

While the legal principles of inheritance apply in a similar way to physical and online assets, the administration of a digital estate can be more complicated, often because of rights of access and permission to transfer, edit or close digital possessions.

If you don’t, and this is the case for many people, you need to because otherwise things could be a lot harder – or even impossible – for those who need to manage your affairs.

If you have a Twitter or Facebook account, your family may want it deactivated. Even worse, some of your online life could be lost forever.

Social media networks such as Facebook do not hand over access or control to anyone else without clear permission, and as the Law Society explains: “Not making your digital legacy clear could mean important or sentimental material – such as photographs on social networks and online music – is never recovered.”

It’s why having a Will to give your executors the power to access and manage your digital assets is vital.

What should you do about it?

Create a personal asset log: Making a list of your online accounts such as email, banking, savings, pensions, investments and social media sites will make it easier for family members and your executors to piece everything together. And be clear who you want to manage your digital legacy – including your content on social media sites – to make sure your wishes are carried out.

It could also save on time and legal fees as well as the emotional upset for family members.

Get organised: Bookmarking your favourite websites where you frequently log in or manage things online is another worthwhile tactic.

Make it legal: Once you’ve organised things, write down where everything is and what you’d like to happen to these assets, make it crystal clear and include it in your Will.

What about your passwords?

Follow the usual sound advice and avoid writing down or sharing your passwords and PIN numbers but have a secure – yet findable – home for your all your log-in information. Security is paramount so it’s well worth taking legal advice on the best approach here.

Look ahead

Considering your digital legacy if still a relatively new idea for most of us but, as with any kind of legacy, think about what you want, be organised and leave clear instructions when it comes to your digital possessions.

It makes sense to take legal and financial advice so that everything is legal and watertight – and remember to keep everything up to date when things in your life change.

Information correct in March 2017.