May 31, 2017

Your digital legacy – what will happen to it when you die?

Digital legacy

Certain managers in the NHS may be dreaming of the good old days of paper charts hooked at the foot of bed this week, but for most of us we would find it difficult to step away from the digital world. However not many people give much thought to what happens to all this data and digital property when we die.

Where do you start?

The first point for managing anything in life is to know what you are managing. This is where a log of your ‘digital footprint’ is useful: what have you accumulated, signed up to and logged on to during your life?

Make a log and update it regularly. This list can be accompanied by login and password details, but remember to store these securely. Going back to pen, ink and a wax seal has its appeal for me.

Always read the T&Cs

Get to know the terms and conditions of ISPs. These will affect what happens to your digital assets following death. You need to know the parameters of what you can and cannot do; never assume. Some ISPs prohibit the transmission of this information by the account holder, even to personal representatives.

Determine whether intellectual property (IP) rights on your digital assets are owned by the account holder. For example, an account holder will only have a licence to use files downloaded from iTunes, and that licence terminates on death. For most other types of account, the account holder will retain some rights over IP that may be able to be passed on.

Social media management

Would you want memorialisation of social media accounts (such as Facebook)? Be aware that on notification of death, some social media accounts may be shut down immediately to prevent malicious posts from third parties.

Do you want to leave instructions about messages to be posted on social media for the benefit of friends and family following your death?

Digital wishes in your Will

You should have a think about whether you want your digital assets to be dealt with specifically in your Will. And if so should your Will executors be given additional powers to administer digital assets?

Your homework this week is to make a list of everything which will leave a digital legacy when you are gone. You may be surprised by how large the list is!

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