The digital world is increasingly important in our lives. Therefore, it is crucial to consider the fate of our online possessions after death.
98% of the UK population has access to the internet, and more than 84% are active on at least one social platform. In the last 20 years, our lives have shifted online. This means we need a clear digital strategy for many things, including legacy planning.
Yet, a shocking 71% of Britons with a will don't include their digital assets, according to St James’s Place. Including your digital assets in your legacy planning brings peace of mind and helps loved ones during a challenging time. This guide is here to help you navigate the important steps in safeguarding your digital life.
In this article, we will cover:
'Legacy' refers to what someone leaves behind when they die, such as belongings, family heirlooms, or their reputation.
A 'digital legacy' is the modern extension of this concept. It refers to the digital assets and online identities you leave behind when you pass away. This can include everything from your social media and email to online banking and cloud storage.
As digital platforms become integrated into every aspect of our lives, this becomes especially true.
In 2021, Lyfeguard founders Gary and Fraser faced a tough time settling their friend's estate after their sudden loss.
Gary took on the task of helping sort out their friend's affairs, but he felt overwhelmed. Finding important financial papers and cherished digital memories added to the already difficult task of grieving. A difficult ordeal prompted a crucial question: 'What happens to my family, if the same happens to me?'
Lyfeguard's mission is to assist families in dealing with the difficulties they encounter after losing a loved one. We want to assist you in accessing crucial financial information and safeguarding your digital assets and memories.
Gary Stewart, CEO of Lyfeguard, comments:
"After the loss of our friend, I was left with the overwhelming responsibility of settling the estate. Sifting through piles of paperwork while coping with grief, I realised how crucial it is to organise one's life affairs—both digital and financial. This experience didn't just spark the idea for Lyfeguard; it underlined the very real need for a solution that simplifies this process for families during their hardest times."
When reading this guide, keep in mind that planning your digital legacy is not just a bureaucratic task. It is also an act of love. If you want to learn more about our story, you can find it here.
43% of people don't share their financial account details with someone they trust, according to a study by St James's Place. In today's digital age, this can be a severe oversight, given that financial tasks are increasingly handled online, leaving less of a paper trail for loved ones to follow.
Furthermore, 14% of those surveyed said they plan to share their financial details but haven't got around to it, while 10% cited frequent password changes as a reason for not keeping their legacy plans updated.
At Lyfeguard, our research echoes these trends:
Proactively planning your digital legacy not only streamlines financial matters but also minimises emotional stress for your loved ones. By taking this important step, you can help prevent misunderstandings that could lead to familial disagreements—something over one in five people have unfortunately experienced during an already challenging time.
Given these statistics, why not begin creating your digital legacy plan today?
Managing your digital legacy is about more than just social media and email accounts—it also encompasses online banking, investment portfolios, and your treasured cloud-stored memories. Taking the time to organise these digital assets simplifies things for your loved ones and ensures that your digital life is handled just as you would want it to be.
This section will cover the five key areas of creating your legacy plan:
Creating a thorough digital inventory is the cornerstone of effectively managing your digital legacy. A well-structured inventory will help your digital executor and loved ones easily locate and manage your online assets and accounts.
|Start with a Spreadsheet or a Secure Digital Tool||While some people opt for encrypted spreadsheets, platforms like Lyfeguard offer specialised tools designed to securely manage your digital inventory. With features such as centralised data, financial insights, sharing options, and reminders, Lyfeguard aims to make the process as straightforward as possible.|
|Account Categorisation||Begin by categorising accounts based on their nature such as financial accounts, social media, email, cloud storage, etc.|
|Financial Accounts||Online banking, investment portfolios, cryptocurrency wallets.|
|Social Media||Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram.|
|Email Accounts||Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook.|
|Cloud Storage||Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud.|
|Creative Works||Blogs, published articles, copyrighted materials.|
|Utilities and Services||Electric/gas accounts, phone, streaming services.|
Once you have the inventory list down, it's time to provide further detail:
|Account Names||How the account is officially identified, e.g., "HSBC Savings Account" or "Facebook."|
|Website URLs||The web address for login or account management.|
|Usernames or Account IDs||The identification used for logging in.|
|Associated Email||The email account used for signing up or communications.|
|Security Questions/Answers||To assist in account recovery.|
|Two-Factor Authentication Methods||Details on whether the account uses SMS, an authentication app, or another two-factor method.|
|Designate Importance||Label the accounts based on their importance level. Use tags like 'Critical', 'Important', and 'Optional' to prioritise which accounts need immediate attention upon your passing.|
|Special Instructions||Add a column for any specific instructions you have about the account, like “Delete after my passing” or “Transfer funds to XYZ.”|
|Legal Constraints||Note down any legal constraints or terms and conditions that the executor should be aware of, such as "Cannot transfer ownership but can close the account."|
|Regular Updates||Digital inventories should be dynamic documents that are updated regularly, especially if you frequently change passwords or open new accounts.|
|Secure Storage||Once your digital inventory is comprehensive, store it securely. Use encrypted digital storage or physical security like a safe deposit box, and make sure your digital executor knows how to access it.|
Securing a digital legacy has become a concern for many, prompting tech giants to devise solutions that ensure our data is handled appropriately. Below, we have covered the legacy process of Apple, Meta, and Google.
Apple has a feature called "Legacy Contact" which allows users to designate specific contacts who can access their Apple ID data after their passing.
How it works:
Facebook has a process to memorialise accounts. When an account is memorialised, it becomes a space for friends and family to share memories after a person has passed away.
How it works:
Google's solution to the digital legacy question is the "Inactive Account Manager." It lets users decide what happens to their account data if their account becomes inactive for a specified period.
How it works:
Options for data:
When it comes to digital legacy management, a traditional executor may not have the technological expertise needed to handle your digital assets efficiently. That's why appointing a separate digital executor can be a prudent move. Here's what to consider:
Tech-Savvy Skills: The ideal digital executor should have a strong understanding of digital platforms and cybersecurity norms. They should be comfortable navigating various online accounts, understanding data encryption, and dealing with digital rights management.
Legal Awareness: They should also have a good grasp of legal matters concerning digital assets, as laws about posthumous data handling can vary.
Trustworthiness: This person will have access to your most sensitive information and digital assets. Ensure they are completely reliable and understand the responsibilities involved.
Explicit Mention: Make sure that your digital executor is clearly named either in your will or a separate "letter of wishes". This provides legal clarity and helps avoid any potential conflicts.
Instructions and Access: Utilising a platform like Lyfeguard allows you to leave specific instructions for your digital executor. It ensures they have all the resources needed to perform their duties without breaching any terms of service.
Backup Digital Executor: Appointing a secondary digital executor is advisable in case your primary choice is unable to perform the duties for any reason.
Communication: It's crucial to have an open line of communication with your digital executor. Make sure they understand their role and know how to access the necessary resources, such as your secure inventory on Lyfeguard, to manage your digital legacy.
Updates and Reviews: Life changes, as do relationships and technology. Regularly review your choice of digital executor, especially if you’ve had significant life changes or if new types of digital assets become relevant.
By diligently appointing a tech-savvy digital executor and using Lyfeguard to centralise and secure your digital assets, you’re taking essential steps toward a comprehensive digital legacy plan that minimises the burden on your loved ones.
The topic of legacy planning, especially the digital aspect, can be an emotionally charged subject. However, keeping an open line of communication with your loved ones is crucial for seamless transition and management of assets after you're gone. Here's how to approach it:
Choose the Right Time and Setting: This conversation deserves undivided attention from both parties. Choose a time and setting where you can speak without distractions.
Be Transparent and Honest: Discussing death is never easy, but clarity and transparency can alleviate much of the emotional burden.
Use a Platform to Facilitate the Process: Tools like Lyfeguard can make these discussions more structured. Share your inventory or list of digital assets securely with your loved ones so they know what to expect.
Involve Your Digital Executor: If possible, have your appointed digital executor join the conversation. This ensures everyone knows their roles and responsibilities.
Regular Updates: Make it a practice to update your loved ones whenever there are significant changes to your digital assets or will.
Seek Professional Advice: In complicated situations or for large digital estates, consulting a professional can be beneficial for everyone involved.
A traditional Power of Attorney (PoA) doesn't have to be limited to just your physical assets and healthcare decisions. It can also be extended to cover the management of your digital assets should you become incapacitated.
Why Include Digital Assets in a PoA:
Holistic Asset Management: Extending your PoA to digital assets allows your designated agent to manage your comprehensive estate, including emails, social media, and online banking.
Legal Complexities: Consult a legal advisor to ensure you understand the legal frameworks surrounding the inclusion of digital assets in a PoA. Laws can vary by jurisdiction, and a professional can guide you through these nuances.
Clearly Define the Scope: Specify in detail what digital assets are covered and what actions the appointed agent is authorised to take. This mitigates the risk of misunderstandings or potential misuse of your digital estate.
|Use Secure Platforms for Document Storage||With platforms like Lyfeguard, you can securely store essential legal documents, including an extended PoA, and easily share them with relevant parties when necessary.|
|Regular Updates||Technology and your digital asset portfolio are always evolving. Periodically review and update your extended PoA to ensure it remains aligned with your current situation and wishes.|
|Seek Professional Guidance||Due to the legal intricacies involved, consulting with a legal advisor is strongly recommended when extending a PoA to cover digital assets.|
Managing your digital assets isn't a luxury; it's a modern-day necessity. Taking action today can provide peace of mind and secure your legacy for the future.
As technology evolves, this process will only become more straightforward and integrated into our daily lives.
Begin your digital legacy plan today with Lyfeguard. You can sign up for free here.
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