What is a digital legacy?

Posted: 22/12/2017

We may be living in a digital age, but we are also dying in a digital age, leaving behind a digital legacy. This is an extremely new concept and it can be a confusing one, so what do we mean when we say digital legacy?

The idea of a digital legacy is that when you die, you leave behind accounts in your name. These may include social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. The accounts may also be things that could drain your money once you have died such as subscriptions accounts (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify) or online bank accounts with standing orders, for example.

Social Media Accounts

facebook

It is uncommon for people, especially young people, not to have at least one active social media account. When you die, you leave behind all of your own personal accounts – what then?

Some people find it uncomfortable for their loved ones who have passed to have a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram that is still available to view. By many, this is seen as distasteful.

Others like the idea of being able to “contact” their deceased loved ones. Some families who could shut down the account of their loved one choose not to and use their page to write messages to them, whether that be regularly or on the anniversary of their death.

Either way, it may be wise to pass on your details to a trusted family member or group of people so that your loved ones have the option to shut it down if they wish, or if you are certain you would not want social media profiles of you to still exist after your death.

Account Linked to your Finances

Netflix

The phenomenon of the digital legacy has left many families with a huge headache when it comes to sorting out the finances of someone who has died.

Things like online banking may appear obvious, but it is the subscriptions which are causing the problems. It is very likely that before you die you would have thought to give someone access to your actual bank accounts, but not all the websites which you have a paid subscription to like music streaming sites, video streaming sites and automatically renewed paid memberships. You could lose a significant amount of money on unknown or inaccessible accounts which are linked to a bank account that takes money out routinely.

Things that have been purchased online, such as films and movies, cease to exist after death – how can you pass these assets on? It was widely reported that in 2012, Bruce Willis had been trying to make sure his iTunes digital music collection could be passed on to his daughters. Whilst the story was later denied by his wife, it still raised questions amongst the masses about these sort of assets and what it means once we have passed; where do they fit into your estate?

The Telegraph reported that the Head of Wills at Probate and Lifetime Planning for Saga Services, Emma Myers stated that “A lot of people think that when you download music, for example, that you’ve bought it, and it’s as good as having a CD that you can then pass onto somebody. But what we’re finding is that actually isn’t the case”.

Plan Ahead

In the April of 2014, the Law Society put out a statement which urged people to leave clear instructions about what they wish to happen to their digital assets after they have passed away. There is clearly no denying that leaving a list of online accounts, passwords, details and what you wish to do with these accounts can really benefit your family after your death. Your family will want to adhere to your wishes, so make sure you specify if you want your accounts, particularly the social media accounts, to be deactivated.

In a survey in 2015, Opinium Research found that 87% of British people had not planned their digital assets before dying, leaving their families with significant burdens of time, effort and cost, as well as the difficulties of trying to access the accounts without knowledge of the login details. This is a huge number, but no doubt it will fall the further we ascend into the digital age and the more we view digital assets as part of a person estate.

Speaking of planning ahead, you should consider taking out a prepaid funeral plan in order to freeze today’s prices as they are on the rise as we speak.