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LOOKING AFTER YOUR DIGITAL LEGACY

Whether we have a Will in place or not I think most of us understand their importance.  But what about your digital assets ...?  Closing down your online life could be one of the hardest things your family has to do once you're gone.  Where should they start?

Most digital assets will pass via the main Will that covers the majority of assets, but knowledge of online accounts and how to access them is probably best dealt with via a separate document which can be stored safely alongside the Will.  This would normally be a 'Letter of Wishes' and would typically include details of all online accounts, and your wishes with regard to those accounts long term ie whether you want your Facebook site memorialised, or closed.

Expressing your wishes in terms of your digital assets can be as simple as preventing precious photos being lost, but can also help with regard to online financial accounts ie shares.

Your first step should be to consider the most appropriate person to be your ‘digital executor’.  Ideally this would be one of the executors of your Will but really needs to be someone who is 'tech savvy'. Just as you would check they were happy to perform the role of 'executor' you also need to check they would be comfortable dealing with digital issues as ultimately they’ll be responsible for closing down online accounts, and depending on your wishes, they may also need to sort out your social media photos and videos.

The next step is to make a list of all your online accounts with the username or email address attached to each, but don’t include any passwords. As well as social media accounts you will also need to think about digital assets of monetary value, such as PayPal, shopping points, store credit, holiday currency cards.  Once you’ve made a list of all your accounts; think about what you want done with each; and check the company’s terms of use allow this, to avoid losing photos, videos or music.

It depends on the different providers as to what your options will be but, for example, Apple's terms and conditions state that accounts are ‘non-transferable’ with any rights to your ID or content ending on death.  This means that photos, videos etc would be lost unless they’re already backed up.

The Digital Legacy Association provides excellent advice and resources including an up to date list of your options with various social media sites as well as rules on the information stored on devices like phones and tablets.

Password Privacy - making a list of your accounts and wishes can seem a lot of work; but you can’t get away with leaving a list of passwords and expect your family to ‘log on’ and make decisions for you.  Each social media and online platform has its own terms and conditions that dictate how it can be used and generally speaking passing on account access when you die is likely to break their terms of service.

Your digital legacy 'letter of wishes' should be treated as a live document which is updated during your lifetime as you open or close online accounts.  Once I've Gone is a secure online service for all your final wishes, including legal and financial digital documents along with any videos and photos you want to leave. You can update this as often as you like but make sure it is signed and dated.