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Your digital legacy: what happens to your assets after you die?

17 October 2019

Most people have heard of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and and would recognise those as a digital asset. However, what about social media, email accounts, digital music, online accounts for banks and stores, and photo-sharing accounts?

What constitutes a digital asset is different for everybody, but a broad definition could be personal property owned by an individual that is stored in digital form. It is an asset that is online or electronic, and the format can be images, multimedia or textual content files.

Assets can then be divided into four groups of value:

  • Financial (such as bank accounts, shopping accounts and online trading accounts).
  • Sentimental (such as personal letters, emails, texts, photos and videos).
  • Intellectual (such as domain names, websites, blogs and digital art).
  • Social (such as social media accounts and gaming accounts).

A PWC report has previously valued the UK value of digital assets at £25 billion and almost everybody will have a digital asset in one form or another.

Facebook

When you die, friends and family can ‘memorialise’ your Facebook account. Memorialised accounts have the word ‘remembering’ next to your name on your profile and your content shared by you stays on your Facebook page as well as being visible to the audience it was shared with. No one can log into the memorialised account and dependent on the privacy settings, friends can share memories on your timeline.

A legacy contact is someone who you can choose prior to your death to look after your account if it is memorialised. The legacy contact can accept requests on behalf of the account, change the profile picture and cover photo and pin tribute posts to the profile. If the legacy contact creates an area for tributes, then they can decide who can see and post these tributes.

Another option is to have your account permanently deleted once you pass away.

Google

Google allows you to set up an inactive account manager. You decide upon a length of time for the account to be inactive and after that period expires your nominated person will have access to your account.
Also, you can choose to set your Google account to auto-delete itself 3 months after contacting your nominated person, allowing time for the person to transfer your data before deletion and stop others from using your account.

Apple iCloud

Apple’s Terms of Use state that your account is non-transferable and that any rights to your Apple ID or content within your account terminate upon your death. Upon receipt of a death certificate your account may be terminated and all content within your account deleted. You may wish to consider backing up all your photos and data to a hard drive on a regular basis.

Twitter

The only option on Twitter in the event of your death is to have the account deactivated.

As you can see, digital assets are important matters to consider; the law is always lagging behind in this ever-changing space. If you would like any advice on planning for what happens to any kind of asset after your death, please contact us.

As always, if you need legal advice, we’re here to help so please get in touch.

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Simon Cook LLB (Hons), TEP
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