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What happens to your digital accounts after you die

Just like people plan ahead for what will happen to their things after they die, you can also plan ahead for what’s left about you online – this is called your ‘digital legacy’.

Making your wishes known beforehand can make it much easier for whoever is managing your digital presence and assets once you’re gone. 

On this page:

What is a digital legacy?

Your digital legacy can be divided into two categories – your digital assets and your digital presence.

Digital assets

Digital assets are items in digital form that you have purchased or created over the years, such as:

  • books, movies, games, music and podcasts
  • domain names, websites and blogs you administer
  • access codes and passwords for financial accounts and utilities
  • accounts on platforms such as PayPal, Amazon and eBay.

Many assets in digital form don’t actually belong to you, even though you may have paid real money for them. You may have just bought a licence for the term of your life.

Licensing and ownership varies from platform to platform, with different rights and exemptions for different types of content. It’s a good idea to check exactly what your rights are and what you can (or cannot) do with your assets when you are gone.

Some licences can be bequeathed – which means passed onto someone else – 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 think about how devices and records that are not just used by you may be affected after you die. For example, if your family shares smart devices like home assistants, or digital file storage systems, or if you control family accounts with Microsoft, Amazon, Apple or Google, they will need to know how to access them. 

Digital presence

Your digital presence is the identity you have developed online over time, through things like your social media activity, messages, emails, and any photographs or videos you have shared.

What would you like done with these when you are no longer here?

Parts of your digital presence like photos and records of events may mean a lot to those closest to you, so it’s important to make sure that this part of your life is also addressed.

Many social media platforms have options to memorialise your profile, including your posts and photos, so it can still be accessed by friends and family as a reminder, but not used to post on your behalf. Some allow you to nominate a ‘legacy contact’ who has limited access to manage the account. If you don’t do this in advance, your account can still be memorialised but nothing can be changed.

How to plan ahead

You can plan for the management of your digital legacy in the same way as your physical estate. 

This helps to ensure that your family has what they need to navigate this tricky area of your life in a streamlined way, in line with your wishes, when they are ready to do so. 

It can also help stop identity theft and damage to your digital reputation after you die.

Consulting a lawyer may be helpful, just as you would when you make your Will. There are also a number of online services that can take care of account closures on behalf of your estate if this is your wish.

Here are some ways you can plan ahead:

  • List your digital assets as best you can.
  • Document access codes, passwords and usernames. Keep these secure and separate from your list of assets, and let trusted family members or a legal professional know where they are. 
  • Check the help section of your social media accounts for information about how you can plan for the time when you are no longer around.
  • Set out what you wish to happen to your digital legacy in writing. 

Managing a friend or relative’s digital legacy

If a family member or friend has not left any details about how to handle their digital legacy, your options may be limited.

The ability to access or shut down accounts varies, especially if you don’t have access to emails or the passwords attached to each account. Generally, a death certificate is required. 

Useful links

Some of the following links may help you manage the digital legacy for yourself or someone you know.


  • Set up ‘Inactive account manager’: this allows you to specify when Google should consider your account to be inactive and what they will do with your data afterwards; you can share it with someone you trust or ask Google to delete it.
  • Close a Google account after death (Google and YouTube).


Facebook and Instagram (Meta)

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Last updated: 01/11/2023