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What are the benefits of digital legacy services in estate administration?

Some of the world’s leading technology companies and social media channels are announcing developments in their digital legacy options. The priority of digital legacy is in close proximity to writing a Will or appointing a Lasting Power of Attorney. Setting up a nominee or executor who can manage your digital assets when you no longer have the capability or pass away will save a lot of time and stress, which is usually unprecedented, considering social media is one of the last things which would come into consideration when someone passes away.

What is Digital Legacy?

Digital legacy is the information available online about someone following their death. This can include information like social media profiles, images uploaded to social media platforms or images on photo storage websites, or any other profiles created like blogs, gaming profiles and forums. This can also include social media interactions they have ever had, such as tweets, instant messages, or Facebook messages.

These leading technology companies are still developing their plans and have yet until they are completely available to the public. These plans are certainly a work in progress within these social media platforms and technology companies. LinkedIn now provides authorised and nominated people with the option to access a deceased person’s account and decide to either memorialise or close it.


What are digital assets?

In today’s world, life is very much immersed in technology and social media, and it is possible to have digital assets, which are possessions an individual can access on a digital device like a computer, phone, or tablet. These possessions can be accessed by a third-party provider such as Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, etc. These digital assets can be photos, emails, videos, or music the individual bought online.

  • You can consider appointing an account nominee who can control certain aspects of the accounts. Facebook has an option which allows you to nominate a legacy contact, and you can nominate an inactive account manager with Google. 
  • You can appoint a digital executor in your Will to carry out these tasks after your death. Ideally, this will be someone you trust, such as a close family member or friend. It can also be an executor that you have already chosen in your Will, and ideally, someone who has a vivid knowledge of technology and can remain up to speed with all the developments surrounding social media platforms. You should also ensure that the person you choose to execute is comfortable with holding this responsibility, as they will be responsible for closing down your online profiles and managing your digital assets. 
  • It is also ideal to make a list of the online accounts and login credentials that a person will need to access them.
  • You should also specify in your Will that you have given your executors specific power and authority to handle the digital assets you would like them to oversee so that they can make more progress with the Internet Service Providers; this may include areas outside of the UK. 

Can my digital assets be passed on in my Will?

The Law Society found that 93% of individuals who had a Will in place did not take into consideration their digital assets as well as physical items. Senior Partner and Head of Class Action and Finance Litigation at The Law Society, David Greene, stated, “With many social media platforms only created in the last few decades, it is all too easy to overlook your digital assets when making a will.”

Before you set up your profiles on certain online services like social media accounts, online banking and other online platforms, you will be asked to agree to their terms and conditions. Many individuals have been guilty of skim-reading these documents or clicking “yes” or “agree” before reading anything at all. This is not recommended as they are essentially contracts outlining all the permissions regarding how you can and cannot use these platforms.

If you have any downloaded music, some of this may not be yours to pass on due to licencing. Some social media sites state in their terms and conditions that any photos uploaded there belong to them rather than the account holder. This means when you pass away, that content’s license will expire.

There are many social media companies and cloud-based websites and services which have their own protocol for handling ‘expired’ or inactive accounts. An example of this is Microsoft deleting a Hotmail email account if it’s not accessed over 270 days. Facebook also allows family members to close the account of someone who has passed away once they prove that they are a lawful representative and provide a death certificate.  

Digital legacy and estate administration

Digital legacy that is already in place saves a lot of time for executors when the time comes for closing down your accounts or informing your Facebook friends of your passing. It can also save you a lot of time when it comes to the probate and administration process. When you organise your digital legacy, the process is relatively quick and easy, and it can save your close friends and family from having to put time and money into contacting companies and providers to do so when you pass away.

Not only does having digital legacy in place make processes easier for executors but having access to potential keepsakes like photographs and videos can be beneficial in preserving the memory of the person who has passed away that their close family and friends can hold onto.

Eric Robinson Solicitors Will writing solicitors 

At Eric Robinson, our team is made up of experienced lawyers who are experts in their field. Our Will writing solicitors are ready to help you to write or amend your Will so that it includes instructions about your digital legacy. 

We understand this can be an incredibly difficult time for our clients, and we always deal with matters sensitively.

If you would like to speak to one of our solicitors about the services we offer, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Call us today on 0238 021 8000 to book your initial consultation or make an enquiry by filling out our contact form. We have offices in Southampton, Winchester, London, Chandlers Ford and Lymington, and we can discuss fixed fee options and whether legal expenses insurance could be available to you.