Last Updated on 11.7.16 by Michael Smoult
When it comes to making a Will the foremost thoughts in your mind are likely to be; ‘what happens to my house?’ and ‘who will have access to my bank accounts?’
Something that may not have crossed your mind is, ‘what happens to my digital life?’
A huge number of adults now use the internet and social media on a daily basis. Ofcom reported last year that 96% of all UK adults that are online, use Facebook. This equates to a number somewhere between 30-33 million Facebook users. The second largest social media site is Twitter, with around 15 million UK users. These figures show that a large majority of UK adults are going to leave behind a ‘digital legacy’.
We are now in the summer holidays where lots of people will be jetting off abroad, braving the weather of a UK seaside resort or visiting a natural beauty site. Lots of pictures will undoubtedly be taken to be uploaded to Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites. For many people, the days of physically creating photo albums are going, if not gone already, but what exactly happens to all my online property when I’m not here?
What happens to my digital life when I am gone or lose capacity?
Your digital life, or legacy, includes photographs stored online, music, websites, blogs, computer files and back-ups, digital clouds, email and all other online accounts.
Alongside to the traditional admin left behind, there is now a whole host of digital admin as well. Without planning, all these will be left in a void if you pass away or develop a disease, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, which renders you incapable of looking after such accounts.
The Law Society recommends making and updating a ‘Personal Assets Log’, which has a list of all your digital accounts so that your executor can arrange to close your accounts and your family have permission to access digital media they may want to keep, such as photos and videos.
You don’t have to leave passwords and pins as this would be an offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 for anyone to access your account. Instead, your executors will be able to contact the relevant website or service provide to gain access.
The Personal Assets Log will be separate from your Will, but will be stored beside it. Creating such as document will make the bereavement process much easier to handle and manage by those left behind.
What you can do to make the future easier
Planning for your future is the crux of it. Alongside the Personal Assets Log, there are now many ‘Digital Estate Planning Services’ offering a dedicated service to this conundrum, for example Deathswitch, My Time to say, Perpetu and Willbox.me. These sites allow you to plan ahead for digital information transfer, create time capsules, prepare messages for future delivery, and automate backups, amongst many other things. Of course, this isn’t for everyone, but there are plenty of options out there.
Planning for your future for the sake of your loved ones makes everything much easier in what will be a traumatic time. Having access to photos and videos especially, are likely to be incredibly important for your family and close friends. Getting organised now is not a hardship and doesn’t have to be complex, but it will save a lot of complexities in the future should you not do it. Make sure you Act On It now.
To speak to Mike Smoult or one of his colleagues about planning for your future, making a will or creating Lasting Powers of Attorney, ring 0161 930 5117 where you can speak to a dedicated, personable solicitor who can help you every step of the way. You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Partner & Head of Wills, Trusts & Probate, Wills, Trusts & Probate