Many of our valued possessions, such as photographs, movies and music are stored online. But if you died where would it all go and how can it be secured and accessed by your family? David Hill of the Wills & Inheritance Team at Mogers Drewett explains.
We are all familiar with making arrangements to dispose of any tangible assets like property and valuables in our wills however increasingly it is clear that neglecting to make provision for your digital and online legacy could create unnecessary problems for your family after your death.
On average we each have 26 internet accounts used for a range of essential and not so essential services including email, banking, shopping, social media, skype and paypal. Recent surveys also suggest that one in four people has over £200 worth of content stored on ‘cloud’ services such as iCloud and Flickr and the size of our digital footprint is increasing at a furious pace. If you don’t leave provision for your digital assets your family may not know exactly what online accounts you have so potentially they could lose out financially and they may be unable to access precious photos and memories. The current legal position is that you don’t own the digital content you merely own a license to make personal use of it. This means that your collections of digital music, films and e-books cannot be legally transferred after death and therefore can’t be bequeathed. While Google is now giving users the option to state what happens to their data in the event of their death they are the exception to the rule. Given that you are likely to be using any number of online services and that relatives may not know what those are, it makes sense for you to have a single source of reference and instruction.
Safeguarding your digital legacy is simple if you draft a digital Will alongside your regular Will specifying how to access your assets and what to do with them. You should start by making a digital inventory of all your assets such as bank, payment, shopping and gaming accounts, social media profiles, email addresses and blogs. In each case, list your user name and what your wishes are in relations to it. Once you know what you have you will need to appoint executors who will be responsible for accessing, shutting down or passing on each account to the relevant heirs. Store all your passwords and other access information securely with your solicitor alongside your will do they can be made accessible to your digital executors.
By taking a few practical protective steps will ensure your digital treasures are secured and can be accessed with minimum fuss after your death.