Digital Inheritance

We all live more and more of our life online with internet bank accounts and shareholdings, iTunes, Spotify, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or email accounts.  What we do with our digital life after our death is therefore becoming more and more important.

From a practical point of view Executors may not be aware of the existence of online bank accounts as there will be no traditional paper trail and they may be denied access when trying to deal with these accounts online.  It could mean that important, sentimental materials such as photographs on social media, are unfortunately never recovered.

Your online presence needs be planned for as you would your physical possessions.  Yet very few people have put any plans in place, leaving it to their executors hopefully to stumble across their various accounts.

The concept of a digital legacy is relatively new so legal procedures are not yet in place to set out how matters are dealt with on your death.  It is therefore the individual websites who set out what their users are able to. Facebook for example, have recently launched a “Legacy Contact” feature in America and Canada.  This enables users to designate a person who will receive limited posthumous access to their account with the Legacy Contact being notified at the time of nomination or by Facebook when they become aware of the death.  Hopefully this will soon be rolled out to the UK accounts.

It is a good idea to prepare a list of online accounts which can be stored safely alongside your Will and be updated as and when necessary, without the need for your Will to be amended.  It is also advisable to discuss with family and friends how you wish for your digital assets to be managed on your death and leave clear details of how you would like these to be dealt with either in your will or a letter of wishes.  Do not assume family members know where to look online.  You will need to give consideration to not only those assets with a monetary value but those with a sentimental value.

For now keeping an up to date list of your online accounts would appear to be a sensible step in order to make the job of your executors as simple as possible.  It is clear that a fuller legal structure is required to deal with this ever growing area and hopefully this will be addressed by government.

If you wish to discuss how to put your digital affairs in order please feel free to contact Lindsey Bohanna on 0121 634 2065 or email Lindsey.Bohanna@coleyandtilley.co.uk