The internet has made life easier in so many ways. Paying bills, doing the weekly shop or simply reconnecting with old friends can all now be done at the click of a button without even leaving the house. However, it’s important to consider what will happen to your digital existence when you pass away – your digital legacy. Being a relatively new development, there aren’t yet substantial legal procedures in place to protect your online presence and still less for when you pass away. In the same way you wouldn’t want your loved ones falling out or being inconvenienced over a missing Will when you die, it’s also imperative to plan ahead for your digital legacy.
Be aware of the potential issues that can arise without a properly planned digital legacy:
I. Access denied
Probably the biggest problem your loved ones face when settling your digital affairs is knowing which accounts you hold online and then gaining access to these accounts. Traditionally, with bank accounts and utility companies, this process is covered by Probate, but there is yet to be a similar provision for online affairs. This can make it exceedingly difficult to uncover and close down all of your e-mail and social media accounts, for example.
II. Life goes on
The internet is not yet intuitive enough to realise when you’ve passed away. That means everything which happens automatically will continue. So, when your birthday occurs, your loved ones could potentially be faced with a heartrending reminder of your death in the form of a social media page encouraging them to wish you a happy birthday. The same is true for any regular subscriptions you have to online services, such as film or music sites. Unless these are cancelled, accounts could continue to be debited, at least until bank accounts are frozen by the provision of a death certificate.
III.A ghost in the machine
It’s easy to forget that what exists of you on the internet will likely be around for a long time. Any images or posts to social media, along with any website containing the deceased’s name, will be easily searchable for generations to come. These days, part of how a person is remembered is defined by their residual online presence and once they’re gone, there’s not much loved ones can do about it.