What happens to your digital legacies upon death

When an individual dies their assets are often left to family members, friends or charities in their Wills. Where there is no valid Will, the deceased’s assets are shared out according to the rules of intestacy. Someone that dies without having a Will is an intestate person. Married or civil partners and other close relatives can inherit under such rules. Therefore making a legally valid Will allows a person to protect their estate and determine in it who inherits what.

A digital legacy includes email accounts, music libraries, games, photos, videos, music and films legally obtained from iTunes and content in social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Often people are confused about how to deal with these upon their death, however there are provisions that one can make so that these are left in accordance with ones wishes.
This information can be dealt with a clause within your Will.

Further, it is worth looking into the specific procedures that may already be in place that the social media, email accounts and other websites have to cover the death of a user. Some social networking sites have policies on what will happen to deceased’s customers accounts e.g. Facebook allows a user to nominate a friend or family member to access the account upon death. It is important to ascertain what happens upon your death to each account in which you have an interest so that provisions can be made.

In a world where precious memories are now stored online, not leaving specific directions can run the risk of such photos, videos, music libraries being lost forever. Personal Representatives further run the risk of not being able to close accounts that are held in the deceased’s name.

A helpful tool for Personal Representatives dealing with a deceased’s digital legacies is having a list of all accounts and social networking sites together with wishes of what should happen in the event of their death.

The Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme Protocol, recommends “completion and maintenance of a Personal Assets Log, including digital assets and consideration of how to ensure that those dealing with the estate will be able to access those assets. This is preferable to leaving a list of passwords or PINs as an executor accessing your account with these details could be committing a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. It is enough to leave a list of online accounts and ensure this is kept current.”

Any documents that contain such important information must be carefully stored.

Each account has varying procedures as to what happens to an account upon death. In the event that provisions are not put in place upon death it may be that the accounts remain open for a period of time. This can cause some distress to family members. Other individuals may like for their accounts to remain open e.g. Facebook so that family and friends can leave tributes. It is important to leave clear directions and authority on how you would like such accounts to be managed.

Please contact Prince Evans Solicitors LLP for guidance on leaving your digital legacies.

Written by Huma Khan