The benefits of digital legacy services in estate administration

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Leading technology company, Apple, and social media channel, LinkedIn, have both announced significant developments to their digital legacy options. It’s another box to tick on the to-do list, alongside writing a Will or organising a Lasting Power of Attorney, however, setting up digital nominee or executor to manage your digital assets will save loved ones a huge amount of time and stress when you are no longer here.

What is a digital legacy?

A digital legacy is information that is available online about someone following their death. It can be something that person has left online such as social media profiles, photos uploaded to social media channels or photo storage websites, gaming profiles or blogs. It can also include interactions they have had online, such as Facebook messages or Tweets.

Whilst Apple’s digital legacy service is yet to go live, they have set up a dedicated web page which enables the user to enter their Apple ID and specify that their account should be deleted when they die.

LinkedIn is also now offering authorised and nominated people the option to access a deceased person’s account and either memorialise or close it.

What are digital assets?

Digital assets are essentially ‘possessions’ that an individual accesses on a digital device such as a laptop, mobile phone, tablet or computer. They are usually accessed via an online account run by a third party provider such as Google, Facebook, Netflix, Apple, Microsoft or Amazon. Examples of digital assets are photos, websites, emails, videos and any eBooks or music that person has bought online.

A person’s digital legacy, which includes digital assets, can be stored on websites, social media channels, emails, cloud services or on physical devices.

How do I manage my digital legacy?

  1. Firstly, you can consider choosing an account nominee to take over control of certain aspects of your accounts. Facebook allows you to nominate a legacy contact and you are able to nominate an Inactive Account Manager with Google.
  2. Secondly, you can also appoint a digital executor in your Will to carry out these tasks after your death. This should be a person that you trust, such as a family member or friend. It can be one of the executors you have already chosen in your Will, but ideally someone who is tech savvy, as it will involve using websites and social media channels. It’s important to check with your chosen executor that they feel comfortable with this responsibility. They will be responsible for closing down your online profiles and managing your digital assets.
  3. Thirdly, it’s useful to make a list of your online accounts and all the login details that person will need to access them. There is a really useful list for this here.
  4. Fourthly, specify in your Will that you have given your executors specific power and authority to deal with digital assets so that the executors can make more progress with the Internet Service Providers, which may be outside of the UK.

Are my digital assets passed on in my Will?

According to a survey by the Law Society, 93% of those who have a Will in place neglected to include their digital assets as well as their physical items.

When you start using online services such as social media accounts or online banking apps, you are asked to agree to the terms and conditions. This is something many of us are guilty of skipping or skim reading, however, they are essentially a contract outlining how we can (and cannot) use and enjoy these services.

Downloaded music, for example, may not be yours to pass on due to the licencing. And some social networking sites state in their terms and conditions that any photos uploaded belong to them, rather than the account holder.

Put simply, when you pass away, the license for that content expires with you.

Many social media companies and cloud-based sites have their own protocol with dealing with ‘expired’ or inactive accounts. For example, Microsoft will delete a Hotmail email account if it’s not accessed for over 270 days. Whilst Facebook lets family members close down an account once they have provided a death certificate or by proving that they are their lawful representative.

However, by using digital legacy services, you can appoint a ‘digital executor’ to close down your accounts and organise your photos, videos etc.

How can a digital legacy benefit the estate administration process?

Having a digital legacy in place is useful for executors when it comes to closing down accounts or informing Facebook friends of your passing. However, it can also save a huge amount of time when it comes to the probate and estate administration process. Organising your digital legacy is relatively quick and easy, and yet it can save days, even months, of your loved ones’ time, which would have been spent contacting various companies or providers.

Aside from it making life easier for executors, having access to photographs, videos etc. is also beneficial when it comes to remembering that person once they’ve gone, and providing digital ‘keepsakes’ to hold on to.

Contact our Will writing solicitors in Bristol

Whether you need to write or amend your Will to include instructions about your digital legacy, or you are seeking advice as an executor on a Will, our specialist solicitors can help.

To contact our team of Will Writers and estate administration solicitors, call us on 0117 325 2929 or fill out our online enquiry form. Alternatively, if you want to go ahead and start your Will online, click here.

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