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Fatal Accident Claims

“The Role of Digital in Death Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic”

The coronavirus pandemic that is currently sweeping the world has affected us all in several areas of our way of life. Millions of people across all continents have had to say goodbye to loved ones due to this deadly disease, many of which have been restricted to virtual communication. Due to the worldwide effort in combating this virus, many countries have enforced strict regulations about what the public can and cannot do. This means that families and friends of a dying hospital patient are unable to say their goodbyes in person, even if the patient does not have the virus. Other gatherings in this sector have also been affected, such as funerals where loved ones are told not to attend. The virus is significantly changing how we deal with death and grief.

Fatal Accident Claims is a specialist solicitor firm that helps to support families who have lost a loved one due to the unlawful or negligent act of another person. In this article they will describe some of the ways in which the COVID-19 virus has pushed the funeral sector towards greater use of digital technology.

Saying the Last Goodbyes

Saying goodbye to someone you know who is dying is always a traumatic experience. In the current climate, this can make the experience of death that bit more painful. In many hospitals at this moment of time, there are strict measures in place to limit visitors. To help protect the most vulnerable in our society, people are being urged to remain at home unless necessary. Hospitals in particular can be a very dangerous environment at present. As part of the measures to stop the spread of the disease, family members and friends are unable to see loved ones in hospital as normal. Instead, restrictions can include anything from no access at all, only one visitor allowed and limits on items that can be brought in. Hospital visits are now only where possible and the reality is, most loved ones will be unable to enjoy one last physical embrace in the presence of their terminally ill relative or friend.

While there is negativity and gloom surrounding the virus, there’s also plenty of positivity and hope than we can take from this experience. The influx of social distancing measures we now must endure means that there has been a rise in digital communication. In this example of saying goodbye to loved ones, many family and friends are taking to methods such as video chats. While this doesn’t make the process easier, it enables the possibility of something that is no longer capable in person. Technology may also have additional features to make this moment as special as possible, such as recording functionality to cherish the last time together.

How Funerals Are Changing

Social gatherings are now a big no-no, and this is expected to be the case for a good while now. Even with the peak of the virus having seemingly passed in several countries now, until a vaccine or cure is available, strict social distancing measures will be in place for the unforeseeable future. Funerals are always hard but it’s a vital part of the grieving process. This is an opportunity for friends and family to come together, mourn the deceased, and celebrate their life. Now, that is sadly not possible in the way that we know it. Funerals are now limited to very restricted numbers, usually involving only a handful of direct family members. But that doesn’t mean that other family and friends are unable to attend in some way. Many funeral organisers have now invested in live-streaming technology to help deal with mourning during this crisis. With livestreams, family and friends are unable to watch a funeral without having to be there in person. They will typically be able to see the memorial service inside the church as well as the burial or cremation process. It is a necessary step in using digital technology to bring people together so that they can grieve the loss of someone they loved and continue to journey through the coping process.

Where there is a Digital Will there’s a way

How valuable is your virtual life?

How valuable is your virtual life. Digital assets. Financial planning

We all know that having a Will to protect our life’s assets is crucial, but what about our virtual life? Is our online presence classed as an asset? It most definitely can be!

Known as “digital assets”, what you store online can take many forms, and often have no expiry date. So, what happens to your digital property when you die?

There actually is a thing called “digital estate planning”. Just like a Will, a digital estate plan can help your family to find, access, value, and appropriately distribute or take care of your virtual assets after your death. In many cases, it can form part of your Will.

What are digital assets?

Digital assets can include any data, internet accounts or rights you may have in the digital world. Data may be stored on your computer hard drive, on removable media, or more often it is stored remotely “in the cloud” so you can access it online.

Digital assets can include personal and business data, intellectual property rights, or online accounts, and be held in:

  • Cloud storage facilities,
  • Online accounting services,
  • Email accounts,
  • Social networks,
  • Blogs,
  • Videos,
  • Photos,
  • Web domains and hosted websites,
  • Shopping and business accounts.

Intellectual property rights to photos, music, movies, literary works, websites, computer code, or any creative works you have produced and stored, can also be classed as digital assets.

Understandably, your loved ones may not be aware of all of your virtual assets. Even if they know of their existence, digital property is often password-protected, and many companies have privacy regulations restricting them from allowing access to accounts to anyone but the owner without a legal battle.

Why do I need a plan for my digital assets?

Creating a digital estate plan (or including it in your Will) can provide numerous benefits.

  • Photos, videos, literary works, songs, and other memorabilia that may be of value to your loved ones can be accessed and distributed as per your wishes, including any future royalties associated with your creations
  • If you are the owner of a domain and website, recording your access codes will ensure the domain name does not expire, and the website can be updated after your death
  • Social networking sites and email accounts can be accessed and closed as per each provider’s terms. Your entire circle of friends can also be easily contacted by your family to notify your passing
  • If you own an online business, providing access details to a trusted person will ensure it continues to operate until your full Will is executed
  • If your family is aware of your virtual assets, but cannot access them, a digital estate plan can eliminate the need for excessive probate and potential litigation.

How do I start?

If this has made you realise how valuable your virtual life is, sit down and make a list of your digital assets, including where they’re held and how they can be accessed. It’s important to store usernames and passwords in separate places to minimise the risk of theft.

Then choose someone you trust with this confidential information, and who is up to the task of following your instructions.

Don’t leave it another moment…

The Digital Beyond

This article contains information that is general in nature. It does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. You need to consider your financial situation and needs before making any decisions based on this information.