COLUMN: Leaving a digital legacy

COLUMN: Leaving a digital legacy

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WHILST bequeathing items to loved ones in a Will remains popular, what we leave behind has changed. Gone are the days of just cash and chattels and in their place is a digital legacy.

Apple Inc is now making it easier for IOS users to choose who they would like to receive their digital data when they die. The ubiquitous iPhone is much more than a mobile phone; it’s a camera, a storage file of family memories, a bank account, a music and film library and so much more.

Hot on the heels of Facebook and Google, Apple is now making it easier to pass this data on to loved ones when you pass away.

Pearson Solicitors Sheyma Alwail and Jacqueline White

If you have social media accounts, you can also request specific people to delete or take these over on your behalf.

The Apple Digital Legacy programme allows people to select up to five ‘legacy contacts’ in settings to whom the assets can be transferred after death. They don’t even need an Apple ID or an Apple device, just an access key that will generate when they become a contact, in addition to a copy of the death certificate. This can all be laid out by your solicitor in a properly written professional Will.

Legal Adviser Lucy Roughley helps clients with Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney and more.

As a young lawyer she is well aware of the importance of a digital legacy she is personally creating.

“We are living in a digital world and therefore creating a digital legacy without realising its significance and importance,” she said.

“More and more people are using smartphones and store photos and other important information on their phone, not on paper. A lot of people don’t consider this library of memories which are then lost or unable to be accessed when they pass away.

“As part of our Will review service we ask clients to also consider their digital assets which includes Icloud, google drive and other storage accounts and provide advice about them. We also offer documents which clients can complete to ensure as smooth a process as possible for their loved ones.”

Google allows you to have an ‘inactive account manager’ with a nominated person who manages your email if it’s been inactive for a minimum of three months. Similarly, with Facebook you can have a ‘legacy contact’ giving someone limited access to memorialise the account.

Lucy added: “It’s not easy for people to talk about death and what they might leave behind, but from the age of 18 anyone can and should make a Will as they don’t always realise the value of their digital legacy.

“New cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin also forms part of the estate and needs to be taken into account.”

It is important to consider your digital assets as in a case against Apple a husband had not made a Will so his wife and daughter could not access his phone for photographs and videos. A judge ordered Apple Inc to grant the widow access and a Court Order was required to force release of the account information. A digital Will would have spared them this heartache.

“Thankfully things are changing and the tech companies are making it easier, but the only way to ensure your assets go to the people you want them to pass to on your death is to chat with a solicitor, take advice and make a Will,” said Lucy.

• If you wish to discuss Wills, Lasting Power of Attorney or need advice on your leaving a digital legacy contact us on 0161 785 3500 or email


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