Your Digital Legacy

More and more people are using technology to run their lives, but what happens to all of your devices and your digital footprint when you die?  How does your executor (or attorney) even know about your digital life if there is no paperwork?

The hardware may be easy to find and value, but who owns it?  The mobile phone handset may belong to the provider until the initial contract period is over.

Online bank accounts are easily valued but a grant may be required to access it and transfer the money – even if you know the password. 

Social media accounts, email accounts, websites, blogs and digital photographs may only have sentimental value, but many people make a living online and there may be intellectual property associated with their “brand”. 

Digital music and books tend to be licenced to the user, which ends on death.  Sometimes you can pass them on by saving them to an external storage device which can be given the beneficiary, or share the licence with family. 

English law may not apply – people have taken Facebook and Apple to court to access to accounts and devices.  Under California law Facebook does not have to, and will not, grant access to private messages.  You can only memorialise or delete the account.  Apple will unlock a device for the beneficiary to use, but will not give access to the content.

Technology moves faster than the law, but here are some practical suggestions:

Make an offline list of your online accounts and keep it up to date.

Check the terms and conditions because accounts may be locked after a period of inactivity and the content deleted. 

Look out for legacy options, like Google’s Inactive Account Manager, which allows you to nominate someone to have access after your death.

Save files onto a CD or memory stick or print photographs so they can be passed on easily.