Cyberwills: Protecting Digital Life After Death.

What will your digital legacy be? It is something that few of us give much thought to, but lawyers are urging consumers to take action.

From social media uploads to the contents of your digital wallet, what happens to your online presence after you die is getting increasingly important.

So what’s all the fuss about? Surely what happens to your digital legacy, (or cyberwill) after you die can’t be that important can it? Well, yes it can actually. As an example take the social media. It’s been estimated that should a social media network like Facebook still be around in 50 years’ time, there will be more dead users than living ones. Unfortunately all of the images and information you may have posted online will still be around and searchable even when you’re not. How would your remaining relatives feel if they were to receive a reminder wishing their deceased relative a happy birthday?

What happens to your Internet presence after death?

Well, there may be some online activity you wish to pass on to family and other loved ones such as bank details or information stored in the Cloud. Unfortunately, there are currently no substantial legal procedures in place to protect your online presence while you are alive: alas there are even fewer when you die.

Facebook, to its credit, is making progress on the issue. Its death policy states:

“We will process certain special requests for verified immediate family members, including requests to remove their loved one’s account… [but] requests will not be processed if we are unable to verify your relationship to the deceased person.”

Facebook’s Memorial Page Verifiable documentation pack includes a birth certificate, death certificate and/or proof that you are the lawful representative of the deceased or his/her estate. With the family’s consent, Facebook may also transform the profile into a memorial page for e-mourning of the deceased.

Twitter and LinkedIn also say they will remove the profiles at the request of a friend, relative or colleague of the deceased user, with sufficient proof. Unfortunately other online accounts may never be shut down if the family don’t know about them, or don’t know the necessary passwords to access accounts.

So how do you manage your digital legacy?

What steps can you take now to avoid future problems? Well, the simplest way is to treat it as you would a Will. The important thing is that you address the issue as soon as possible. Speak to your solicitor for help and advice. They can help you with legacy matters and make it easier for family members and loved ones to access digital assets after the user’s death.

Make a directory of all the online services you use:

  • Banks.
  • Shops.
  • Social media accounts.
  • E-mail accounts.
  • Directories.

Then store your Online Directory with your Will, and use your Online Directory to specify what you want to happen to each account:

  • Online bank accounts:

These should automatically shut down once the normal bank account is closed. To be on the safe side, specify in your Will that your online account should also be deactivated.

  • E-mail accounts:

Request to have these closed unless they are shared.

  • Social media pages:

Choose between closing down the account or turning it into a memorial page.

  • Professional directories:

Request that these profiles are deleted.

  • Online shops:

Close these accounts so that your sensitive banking information and personal details are deleted.

  • Regular online payments:

Cancel monthly subscriptions.

For more information on digital legacy contact Harold Stock & Co Solicitors on 01457 835597 or email info@haroldstock.com.

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