Your Digital Legacy Counts Too:

Everyone understands the concept of a legacy. What we leave behind, both figuratively and physically, matters to most people. We want to leave lasting memories, cherished items, and for good to come from our unused assets. Yet most of us give little thought to the vast amounts of digital assets we hold. They simply get forgotten as some kind of peripheral residue of a life now gone. Few people realise that your digital life counts too.

The Norm

We write wills, make sure we have insurance policies and plan our funerals to the nth degree. More often than not, we put money aside for our loved ones or a charity close to our hearts. Great care is taken to try to make things easier for those you leave behind at an emotionally charged time. But, most of us neglect our digital legacy. This comes as little surprise. After all, having a digital legacy at all is a modern age predicament. Technology is thriving, yet few of us consider our digital footprint and the assets we have in cyberspace. Crucially, this is fast evolving into a potential source of significant problems for those we leave behind.

How Things are Changing

In times gone past, people’s estate could be settled in a standardised way. A simple search through the deceased’s filing cabinet would allow access to all of the information required to put their financial affairs in order. Letters would come through the door, allowing the family to clear up any loose ends, and to advise contacts of their passing. Not so today! No one will have missed how the internet took the world by storm! With it, much of our financial lives have now shifted to being online.

If you think about it, when was the last time you got a paper bank statement? The chances are that if you do have them now, you’ve had to specifically request them as a preference over their digital version. Bearing this in mind, how much more difficult is it for executors nowadays to keep track of what accounts you hold and where to find them.

The Impact of Not Considering Your Digital Legacy

It can be quite a problem if you haven’t carefully signposted your digital legacy in advance! What’s more, unless you have told someone your passwords, your email and social media accounts will become inaccessible. As such, any information on them that would have proven useful will simply be lost to cyberspace. 

It’s odd to think that your social media accounts form part of your digital legacy, but they do! All too often inaccessible account means that the dearly departed’s family are unable to close them down or inform others of their sad loss. 

Furthermore, social media has inbuilt prompts designed to keep people talking. Just think of those posts on your profiles that pop up to celebrate being friends with someone? Maybe you’ve seen a photo of a cherished memory pop up a year on from when it was posted? What if those posts were a reminder of someone you had lost? Are you prepared to receive them forevermore on intermittent dates marking random anniversaries?

 It’s probably fair to say that, at the very least, this isn’t conducive to the healing process. BUT it is what will happen if you don’t take measures to consider your digital legacy too. And that’s not even mentioning the logistical nightmare involved that, on top of the emotional stress of grief, may be overwhelming for your loved ones. This is probably exactly what you were trying to avoid when you spent hours poring over the finer details of your will.

The Way Ahead

The good news is that there are things you can do to help your family wind up your digital legacy fairly easily. Make an inventory of all of the digital devices you own. This should also include a list of all your social, personal, financial and business account details. You’ll also want to include login details and security question answers. Obviously, this will be a highly confidential document, so you should take care to have this document stored somewhere safe, with the location of it know to a trusted family member or friend. 

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that some of your online accounts have features in place should the account holder die. For example, Google gives you the option to set up an “Inactive Account Manager.” This basically refers to a trusted contact who is granted access to certain aspects of the account, namely Gmail and Google Drive. Features such as these give a trusted person a level of control over your digital legacy once you’re gone and can significantly lessen your loved ones’ distress at a crucial time.

 

As always, if you would like to speak to a financial adviser, please do give us a call on 01243 767 469. Alternatively, you can email us from our contact page, and one of our advisers will be in touch!

Written by Chris Page

Chris is an experienced financial service professional who joined the business in 2013, as a result of his hard work and dedication he was made a director of the firm late 2014.