When we think of legacies in a will we think of cash bequests or
the family heirloom however, in this digital era, legacies are
changing. In today's digital world where more and more aspects
of an individual's life are taking place online, it is
important to consider what will happen to your digital assets when
you pass away, e.g. on-line banking, photographs, music.
In 2011, a UK based charity commissioned a report on digital
legacies, this report reveals that four out of five people in the
UK (80%) own digital assets, but only 9% have considered how they
will pass these on following their death. Gone are the days of
photographs being kept in albums, it is now more common place to
store these on a laptop or online and families are at risk of
losing these precious memories if arrangements are not made to
ensure that they are passed on.
Unfortunately Internet Service Providers, social networking and
photo sharing sites do not necessarily give the family members of a
deceased person access to their loved one's account and the
situation varies across service providers.
When completing your will, you may want to discuss your digital
assets with a member of our wills and estate team and they will be
able to advise you how to deal with these assets.
Don't forget where you squirrelled away the Bitcoins; keep
track of online gaming characters; save your passwords for
photographs and savings accounts or risk it all disappearing down
the back of the internet. In other words, leave a digital legacy,
the Law Society is urging.
Updating advice for writing wills in the 21st century, the
organisation which represents solicitors across England and Wales has warned
that too much valuable, intellectual property is in danger of being
lost when we die.
Never record your passwords, however, in a written will: you are
likely to have changed them by the time you finally log off.
Furthermore, wills are public documents that can be published.
Some assets, the Law Society cautions, will not survive beyond
your lifetime. In many cases, we are merely sold licences to use
online music, films and books preventing them from being passed on
to others. That applies to Kindle ebooks, the Law Society says.
At one point it was widely reported that film star Bruce Willis
was planning to join a legal action against Apple so that he could
leave his iTunes music library to his daughters. Having spread
across the web, the story's credibility was subsequently
As well as Bitcoins, the value of which oscillates according to
volatile online trading conditions, digital gaming characters can
also be worth significant sums after they have accumulated
successful track records and digital equipment.
"People should leave clear instructions about what should
happen to their social media, computer games and other online
accounts after their death," the Law Society recommends.
"Having a list of all your online accounts, such as email,
banking, investments and social networking sites will make it
easier for family members to piece together your digital legacy,
adhere to your wishes and could save time and money. Not making
your digital legacy clear could mean important or sentimental
material – such as photographs on social networks – is
Gary Rycroft, a solicitor with Joseph A Jones & Co in
Lancaster who is on the Law Society's wills and equity
committee, said people should not assume that family members know
where to look online.
"If you have a Twitter account, your family may want it
deactivated and – if you have left clear instructions –
it will be easier for your executors to have it closed," he
said. "If you have an online bank account, your executors will
be able to close it down and claim the money on behalf of your
The Law Society's president, Nicholas Fluck, said: "As
technology has evolved, so has the way we store information. Simple
things such as photographs, which in the past we could have flicked
through in a printed album, are now stored online. By making our
wishes clear now, it will be easier for loved ones to recover
pictures to cherish and will help with the more practical issues
such as online bank accounts."
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
My friend was married to a Muslim man and they had a daughter together before he divorced her. He recently passed away, leaving another daughter from his first wife, whom he divorced before marrying my friend.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).