When you lose a loved one, you and your family may either want or need to access their digital accounts. Of course, protecting your digital legacy is important for financial purposes, such as accessing a bank account. But this also applies to social media and your digital assets too.
You may want loved ones to have access to your photo libraries for sentimental reasons, as your images reflect precious family memories. So, let’s look at what’s involved when planning and protecting your digital legacy.
STEP is a global organisation trying to build awareness of digital asset planning and includes lawyers, accountants, and estate-planning professionals. A recent survey by STEP showed that around 60% of respondents had received questions from their clients about managing and protecting their digital legacy. Furthermore, most respondents felt more clients would require advice about this subject in the years ahead. We agree with this too.
“Nearly a quarter of respondents said their clients frequently have difficulties accessing the digital assets of a deceased or incapacitated person. Causing great distress and frustration.”
Managing digital assets
Nowadays, most people access important accounts online. Typically, this would include accounts for your bank, mobile phone, broadband, and possibly your energy and water bills. You may also have iCloud, MS OneDrive or Google accounts to store your photos, videos, and files online. However, if you were to die suddenly or lose the capacity to make decisions due to an accident, stroke, or dementia, your bank account could be frozen.
If you lost capacity and had a Lasting Power of Attorney for Property and Finance in place, this would give you some protection. Your nominated “attorneys” would be able to access your bank accounts. This means the account wouldn’t be frozen, and they could manage your finances and pay household bills while you were in recovery or on a permanent basis.
When someone dies, however, things can become difficult and often very traumatic for families trying to access a deceased’s digital accounts. In many cases, family members have had to seek a court order to gain access, causing needless delays, debts, and extra heartache. So, what can you do to protect your digital assets, including online photos, videos, and music accounts?
Planning your digital legacy
As an organisation committed to improving the way people manage their digital legacies, STEP is lobbying large technology companies to update their legacy contact policies. They argue that people should be able to decide, in advance, who should be allowed access to their accounts in the event of their death.
There are ways to assign a Legacy Contact to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Apple, and Google accounts. Go to the STEP webpage – update your legacy settings. Before you update these settings, you must consider who you will nominate.
Here are some key steps to help you protect your digital legacy:
- Who would you prefer to have access to your sentimental digital assets? This includes photo albums stored in the cloud and your social media accounts, which may also contain personal images. Likewise, ask them who they would prefer to have access to their digital assets.
- Who would you not want to have access to the above digital assets? Talk to your partner and family members, and don’t be put off by the thought of having uncomfortable conversations. It will lead to less stress in the long run.
- Consider sharing cloud photo albums with family and friends so that others can access your photo memories. You could also share playlists so you don’t lose any sentimental songs or other music.
- Regularly review your digital legacy; big life events can happen at any moment, so it’s important to plan ahead and prepare in case the unexpected happens.
One way you can make sure your digital legacy is protected is to discuss your thoughts with our financial planning team. We can help you with Lasting Powers of Attorney to ensure your loved ones can access your important online accounts. We can also discuss what will happen to your other digital assets and who should have access. Simply mention this when you attend your financial planning review with our team.
Do you need a review of your estate? Have you planned who will have access to your digital assets? Get in touch to speak to our financial planning team for advice.