We accumulate a lot of assets throughout our lives. For those of us that are planners, our houses, cars, finances and possessions are left to children and loved ones via our Will.
But less of us spend time planning for our digital demise, even though this may form part of our most enduring legacy.
If you are unwell and know that you may not be around, it is worth taking the time to clean up your online presence and make your wishes known to your family. Ensuring that they have access to usernames, passwords and email addresses can help them to navigate this tricky area of your life in a streamlined way, in line with your wishes, when they are ready to do so.
The ability to access or shut down these accounts varies, particularly if you do not have access to the emails or passwords attached to each account. Generally a death certificate is required and there are now a number of online services that can take care of account closures on behalf of your estate if this is your wish.
Your digital legacy can be divided into two categories:
Separate from your physical devices, digital assets form part of the ‘internet of things’. They include items such as music, books, films and podcasts. Many of these items actually don’t belong to you, even though you may have purchased them with actual money.
Licensing and ownership varies from platform to platform, with different rights and exemptions for different types of content.
The most important thing you can do in this space it to understand exactly what your rights are and what you can (or cannot) do with your assets once you pass on. Some licences are able to be bequeathed, but you will only know this if you read the End User License Agreement (you will have ticked a box at some point to say that you agree with it!).
You also need to consider any other devices in your home that may be impacted by your passing. If your Apple or Google account also services your children’s devices then the impact could be considerable.
Your digital presence is less about the things and more about your digital identity.
Facebook, Twitter and webmail are the obvious ones, but what about all of the other services you may have signed up for, and what would you like done with these when you are no longer here?
Much of your online presence may be precious to those left behind, including family photographs, memories and events, however it is important to make sure that this element of your life is addressed.
Many platforms have options to memorialise your online page so that it can still be accessed by loved ones as a reminder, but not used to post on your behalf.
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