What will happen to your online presence after death?
Most of us know how important it is to plan for our deaths in terms of writing a Will and some people consider writing a letter to their loved ones detailing their assets, account numbers, and the like. However, with the rise of the digital age, what happens to our online presence and our digital assets, e.g. loyalty card points, social media, emails, music, e-books, etc. is becoming an increasing issue.
By way of example, for those on Facebook, if the deceased leaves a note of their usernames, emails and passwords to their loved ones, often they will simply ‘log-in’ as the deceased and post as them on their page. This can often be a quick, easy and effective way of letting friends know of the deceased’s passing and contact details for the executors or next of kin. People may leave funeral or memorial details on the page so that even those friends they cannot find addresses or telephone numbers for have the option to attend if they so wish.
The social media giant is now allowing members of the network to appoint a ‘legacy contact’: A person is appointed by the member during their lifetime so that, upon their death, this person can step in and manage parts of their accounts. However, only one person can be named and so the difficulty is one that solicitors warn against constantly in Will writing. Survivorship – you need to be sure that your appointed person will be alive and able to manage your account after you have died.
Another option is to appoint a ‘digital heir’, a person who inherits your digital assets on your death and can deal with these as appropriate. This will cover not only Facebook, but also Google, who introduced a similar scheme in 2013. And it may well be that many online providers follow suit.
A version of this article appeared on http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/facebook-to-let-users-choose-digital-heirs-who-will-look-after-their-account-when-they-die-10041377.html