As technology continues to advance at an unprecedented pace, our lives have become increasingly intertwined with the digital world. From online banking to social media accounts, we accumulate a substantial digital presence throughout our lives. However, have you considered what happens to this digital legacy after you pass away?
There is no Act of Parliament that specifically addresses what happens to your personal data after your death in the UK but there are some existing legal rules and precedents to navigate. To address the lack of a specific Act, the Digital Devices (Access for Next of Kin) Bill was introduced, however it has stalled in Parliament since May 2002, and therefore is unlikely to become law anytime soon.
In this blog post, we will explore the significance of protecting your digital legacy and provide practical steps to manage it effectively.
In the digital age, our personal data, memories, and online presence are stored across various platforms, such as social media accounts, email accounts, cloud storage, and online subscriptions. Collectively, this forms our digital legacy. Failing to address the management of this legacy can result in complications and potential security risks for your loved ones.
When it comes to preserving your digital assets, there are some key steps to follow:
1. Take an inventory
Start by creating a paper inventory of your digital assets. This includes listing your phone, tablet, and computer passwords for entry, as well as all online accounts, email accounts, subscriptions, and any valuable or sentimental data stored digitally (such as Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive). Consider documenting usernames, passwords, and any relevant access instructions and keep this up to date over time.
2. Password management
Secure password management is crucial for both your digital security and the ease of managing your digital legacy. Consider using a password manager to store and organise your passwords securely. This will ensure that your loved ones can access your accounts if necessary.
3. Back up your data
Back up files that are useful or precious to you on an external hard drive and keep it in a safe place. This includes photos, videos, music, and documents. That way you get to decide who has access to it after you die, rather than a tech company.
4. Digital estate planning
Just like a traditional estate plan, you can grant someone access to your digital estate in your will. It is essential to appoint a digital executor or designate a trusted individual who can manage your digital affairs according to your instructions. Your family or friends shouldn’t need to go to court to get access to your digital life when you die as long as you make arrangements beforehand.
5. Privacy settings and data management
Review and update your privacy settings on various platforms to reflect your preferences for afterlife management. For example, you may wish to memorialise your social media accounts or specify whether you want them to be deactivated entirely.
6. Communicate your wishes
Openly discuss your digital legacy with your loved ones and inform them about your intentions. Share your digital estate plan, including details about the appointed digital executor and any specific instructions you have for the management of your digital assets.
Some may say “couldn’t I just make a list of all my online accounts and passwords?” There is nothing to stop you doing that, but it’s not very secure during lifetime or after you’re gone. It could mean anyone who gets hold of the list gets access. Plus, most online services say that accounts are non-transferable, so if they discover someone who isn’t you accessing your account, it may be locked or even deleted.
In an increasingly digital world, protecting your digital legacy is becoming an integral part of comprehensive financial planning. By taking proactive steps to manage your digital assets, you ensure that your loved ones can navigate the complexities of your digital presence in a secure and organised manner. Don’t underestimate the significance of safeguarding your digital legacy – start planning today to provide peace of mind for both you and your family.