New research shows that almost nine out of 10 Britons have failed to set out details of where their online bank accounts and other personal effects can be found.
As the use of online savings, pensions and investment portfolios grows, so does the danger that their families could lose out on a fortune if accounts cannot be traced.
In total, billions of pounds could be lost in cyberspace, legal experts have warned. They say that writing a will is no longer enough – you also have to draw up a digital legacy.
KEEP TRACK OF ONLINE VALUABLES
The average Briton has £333 in digital assets, according to new research from Saga Legal Services. This includes savings and investments, and credit held in online only accounts, such as shops or gambling sites.
Others have expensive digital music and movie collections stored, or risk leaving private photos or blog posts freely available online for generations to come.
Despite this, 87 per cent of Britons do not have a plan in place for family estates to be able to trace them, and could bequeath wasted time, effort and financial loss to their loved ones, Saga warns.
BEWARE DIGITAL DANGERS
As we spend more of our lives online than ever before, with the number of over 65s using the internet daily quadrupling in the past eight years, we need to be ready for what follows when we die. Emma Myers, head of wills at Saga, says that as the financial implications of not planning your digital legacy are growing in severity, so it should be treated just like a will for your physical possessions.
She says: “In the same way that you would not want your loved ones falling out or being inconvenienced over a missing will when you die, it is also imperative to plan ahead for your digital legacy.”
Facebook has just announced that it is launching a Legacy Contact feature, which allows users to appoint someone to manage their account when they die, and post a final message on their behalf
This is already a problem, with almost eight out of 10 bereaved people reporting difficulties managing a loved one’s online accounts after they die, according to research from Co-operative Legal Services.
It calculates that with hundreds of millions of online accounts and assets in the UK, a staggering £17 billion could be lost in cyberspace.
Even after accounts have been traced, families face further tough decisions determining their loved one’s wishes. Families also overlook social accounts that may have sentimental value, or lose track of online contacts.
PASS IT ON
James Antoniou, head of wills for Co-operative Legal Services, says when people consider how they want their assets to be divided, the first thing they think of is making a will.
Yet all too often people fail to take their digital legacy into account. He recommends writing details of all your online accounts in a sealed letter to be kept alongside your will, addressed to executors.
“This should include references to the usernames and passwords, and answers to security questions.
“You should never put these in your actual will, because it can become a public document after death.”
Facebook has just announced that it is launching a Legacy Contact feature, which allows users to appoint someone to manage their account when they die, and post a final message on their behalf.
Google’s Inactive Account Manager app deletes information after a certain length of time, but this only applies to services such as Gmail and YouTube.
Too many other sites have failed to do this. So you have to take action yourself, because in the online world, you will not leave a paper trail when you die.