Estate planning in a digital world

Traditionally, when people think of making a will, they often only consider protecting and dividing physical assets.

Physical assets can include:

  • The house you live in, furniture and personal possessions like jewellery
  • Monetary assets like bank accounts and insurance policies

In today’s digital world, however, many people live a large part of their lives online. Over the years, they build and develop a cyber presence that can leave a headache for those sorting out their affairs after death.

To minimise the hassle and worry for your family, it’s worth putting some thought into how you would want your digital assets to be handled.

What sort of online things should you think about?

Social media accounts are a good place to start.

Facebook

The popular social network site previously offered two options which you could choose in advance; deletion of your account or memorialisation. If you chose memorialisation you could designate a legacy contact to manage your account following your death.

Facebook have made changes to this process recently (editorial updates made as of 1 June 2017) and have moved the legacy contact function to the ‘General’ area in ‘Settings’.

As shown in the image, you still have two options; choose a friend (this person must have a Facebook account) to manage your Facebook page or ‘Request account deletion’ in the event that you pass away.

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If you choose to appoint someone as a legacy contact, they will have access to write a pinned post on your profile, respond to new friend requests and update your profile picture and photo. Facebook has made it clear that this person will not be able to log in to your account, or have access to your chat history.

Google and Gmail

The search engine giant now offers a similar service through what is called Inactive Account Manager. This gives you the option to select a trusted contact. Google will get in touch with this person to let them know if your account has been inactive for a certain period of time. You can choose whether to send a basic email alert or to share personal information with the trusted contact (e.g. access to your YouTube account).

Music and film libraries

Thanks to fast, easy payment transactions and mega-storage facilities online, many people have built up substantial libraries of media such as music and films. If you check the small-print you’ll find that licenses often only give you access to this material during your lifetime, so any rights will expire with you.

However, you can secure continued access to material that you’ve chosen to store online for at least some time by giving a family member your account details and authorisations.

Loyalty schemes

Loyalty schemes give people a way to receive discounts and offers from their favourite companies. Companies with loyalty schemes in place use them as a way to reward their best customers, and to market their products further.

When someone passes away, they may have one or more loyalty cards open. What happens to any points or rewards that have been accumulated and not used?

Often it will depend on the small-print, but some companies are coming to realise that customers expect to be able to pass the benefits on. Both Tesco and Sainsbury now expressly provide for Clubcard and Nectar points to form part of the estate.

Tesco explain that when a loved one passes away, the family can apply in writing to close the account. Their website expresses that ‘If a family member dies, please write to our Customer Service Centre detailing the member’s name, address and Clubcard number. We will close the account so that no further mailings are sent. The Data Protection Act prevents us from changing any details on a card without the owner’s consent but you can have the points transferred to your existing card or we can send you a new card. However, the request for this must be in writing.

What does all this mean for you?

Our advice is to take a little extra time to consider what you’ll leave behind online, particularly as it doesn’t take long to add extra wishes about your online accounts in a will. Most importantly, thoughtfulness now can significantly reduce stress for those organising your affairs.

At Quinn Legal, we’re experienced in advising on will writing and estate planning. Our specialist wills team can help you decide how your affairs will be managed after your death and ensure that there’s minimum fuss and trouble for those left behind. Call our expert Lisa Gawne on 01624 665522 or email hello@quinnlegal.im

You can make a free enquiry using our website contact form too!