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How to protect your digital legacy


It goes on and on. You bank online, store documents online, you have an online history, social media accounts…

It’s your digital life and with that comes a digital legacy.

Image of womans hand guiding a computer mouse

No doubt, being a sensible person, you have taken the care to make a Will to ensure your wishes are carried out when you die.

But many are now asking: ‘What happens to my online legacy when I die?’.

While you are able to control who can have access to your online bank account (which is dealt with in the same way as traditional assets), you may have little control over who can access your social media accounts, with beneficiaries named in your Will not necessarily having the legal right to access these.

So what happens once someone has died?

Facebook allows the executor of a Will to request that the account is shut down or memorialised. However, the executor would only be able to see information that they would have been able to access when the account holder was alive.  Facebook also retains all of the information about the deceased even after they have passed away.

Twitter allows the executor to have an account deactivated, but it will not allow that person to access the account directly. Just like Facebook, Twitter retains all of the information that it holds on the individual who has died.

Google (including Gmail, Google Plus and Google Drive) say that they deal with each case individually and always retain data on the person.

It is also unclear whether Facebook, Twitter or Google would allow an individual to have access to a digital account if this wish was specified in the deceased’s Will. However, you can make arrangements before you die which will allow your executor or heirs to have full access to your accounts.

We’ve prepared this handy guide that helps you prepare for this and other eventualities. You can find more information on ‘Being Prepared’ here.

Many companies now offer services that allow you to manage your digital assets, including a service that saves all of your passwords. If you have a significant digital presence you may also want to seek professional advice, as some laws which govern digital assets can be complex.

Tom Curran, Chief Executive at our estate administration partner, Kings Court Trust, says: “Digital assets that have a sentimental value, such as photographs and videos, are likely to be assets you want to preserve. However, there may also be assets which you would like to be destroyed, such as personal correspondence.

“No matter what your intention is, it is important that you are able to inform your executor what you would like them to do with your accounts so that your final wishes can be carried out.”

Call us on 03300 292611 or visit our Probate and Estate Administration pages for more information on our comprehensive estate administration service.

By Steve McDowell

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Surrey KT17 4NL
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