Will Aid

Protecting your digital assetsProtecting your digital assets

Our research has revealed that of the people who have not made a will, 21% don’t believe they have any possessions worth leaving. But while you might not own a house, a car or a big bank balance, you probably have digital assets that need protecting. Here Peter de Vena Franks looks at how to handle a virtual life after death.

“I don’t need a will,” is something we hear a lot from people who don’t own property, don’t have children and believe themselves asset-less.

But the truth is, most of us these days have a rich, complicated and sometimes lucrative virtual reality which could – and should - be protected by paperwork. 

 

A life online

There are more than one billion people active on Facebook. 

Twitter has 320 million users, Instagram 100 million and Ebay 164 million.

These accounts, along with any other accounts you open online - blogs, email, registered domain names etc - make up your digital assets.

It has previously been reported that people in Britain have at least £2.3 billion worth of digital assets.  

So what happens to all this when you die?

 

Create a digital legacy

You could write out a list of your online accounts (with usernames and the designated person to handle them) and store these somewhere safe.

But it helps to be more formal about it.

A will provides the perfect opportunity for this.

This legal document allows you to decide who receives the balance in your PayPal account, who can use your business domain name and who can access your personal photographs.

You can also decide what you want to happen to your social media presence.

 

Shutting down your accounts

Unless companies are officially notified of a death, the deceased person can continue to "live" online.

Most online services, such as Facebook and Gmail, have stated policies on how to close a deceased person's account – but they all differ.  

Upon request, Facebook will "memorialise" the user's page, allowing friends and family to post memorial messages on the deceased's wall for example. It will also honour requests from family or an executor to permanently close an account.

In contrast Gmail, Google's email program "extend[s] our condolences", but makes no guarantees that it will grant access, or shut down, the deceased's email account.  

 

Make a will with Will Aid 

Will Aid is a will-writing drive held every November.

It works with law firms across the country who pledge a portion of their time to write basic wills in exchange for a donation for charity.

The scheme supports nine of the UK’s best-loved charities and has raised more than £17 million since it launched more than 25 years ago.

Will Aid is an excellent opportunity to discuss your digital legacy with a solicitor.

If you don't make provisions for what happens to your online accounts after death, your family could be left to navigate uncertain legal terrain, where there is relatively little case law or precedent.  

 

Some of your digital legacy requirements can be covered in a basic will, for more information please speak to your participating solicitor.  

 

Find a local Will Aid solicitor

Protecting your digital assets
Protecting your digital assets