I bequeath my iTunes credits to...

I bequeath my iTunes credits to…

Imagine the scene. Sober solicitor, probably with half-rim glasses, surrounded by grieving relatives about to read out the last will and testament of Great-Uncle Johnny: “And to my beloved niece, I leave access to my online poker and bingo account and to my great-nephew Frankie, all my iTunes credits.”

It might seem far-fetched but as more and more of us amass digital assets, it is exactly the kind of will we might need to consider drawing up.

Online estates

Real-life solicitor Matthew Strain is already advising clients about digital inheritances and says making provision for these things in a will or codicil is “relatively straightforward” (see our template for a digital asset will).

“With more photos, books, music and so on being stored online and in digital format, the question of what happens to these when people are gone becomes more important every day,” he said.

“Online possessions – from digital photos and videos to music and apps have monetary and emotional value to their owners, and potentially their loved ones.”

People who do not take care of their digital possessions risk losing them when they die and they could leave relatives with unpaid bills.

“Their estate may be liable for ongoing subscriptions to online magazines or newspapers,” said Mr Strain.

The bluntly-named iCroak is an online service aiming to help people plan how their digital assets are managed after their death.

For an annual fee of between £10 to £15 or a one-off membership of £150, the user can categorise their assets and create “Guardian” accounts for those assets they want to preserve or bequeath.

The “Guardian” will receive an email with a unique username and password and link to iCroak. When the person who has nominated them dies – and a death certificate must be verified first – they will be able to see what has been left to them.

Of course some people will have accounts of a more questionable or embarrassing nature that they would not particularly want anyone to access so there is also an option to mark them for deletion upon death.

Digital treasures

Some accounts will not be suitable for passing on

Cloud hosting firm RackSpace is convinced that, as we store more of our online stuff remotely, we face a real dilemma about what to do with it after we’ve gone.

It commissioned a study in association with the centre for Creative and Social Technology at London’s Goldsmiths University and found that we are sitting on a goldmine of digital assets.

According to the survey, Britons are storing £2.3bn worth of music, film, applications and subscriptions online.

It found that one in 10 have already put their passwords in their wills so that relatives can access their digital treasures.

Nearly a third of the 2,000 respondents to the study said that they have considered their digital inheritance while over half believed some of their treasure possessions were in services such as Facebook, YouTube and Flickr.One of those surveyed, Kelly Harmer, said she had been forced to think about her digital assets following a recent car accident.

“I store many of my most treasured memories online, as digital photos and often don’t have printed copies. I also have things online which are worth money, such as my music collection and digital magazine subscriptions.

“I wanted to make sure that, if something happens to me, my family and friends would be able to access these digital possessions,” she said.

She has now written down all of her relevant login details and passwords in a document.

“I’ve given this to my mother for safe keeping and I’m now looking to take this a step further and put instructions in my will regarding my digital assets,” she said.

It is advice we could all do with following. Now I just have to work out who to leave my vast collection of armour sets from World of Warcraft to.


Your Digital Legacy Can Live On

Your Digital Legacy Can Live On

I read with interest this week that an estimated 11% of people in the UK are leaving their internet passwords in their will so that their loved ones can access their personal data online.

A survey commissioned by cloud computing company Rackspace concluded that more than a quarter of the 2,000 people asked had digital assets worth more than £200. With photographs, films and videos so easily stored online, they have in many cases replaced the hard copy photo album and DVD. When you lose someone, it makes sense that you’d still want to be able to access those assets rather than leaving them online.

By 2020, a third expect to store all their music online, whilst a quarter anticipated keeping all their photos online. In addition, passwords for sites such as Facebook and Flickr are also being included in wills to ensure that personal data can be protected. It’s a sensible idea given how difficult it can be to get hold of these passwords.

Facebook pages can often become tributes to the person, but can also fall victim to spammers or malicious comments, so bequeathing your passwords can allow those left behind to maintain these pages or close them down.

Only the other day, I was shocked to see Facebook suggesting I might want to be friends with someone who is no longer with us – it’s the decent thing to empower relatives to take these pages down if it’s not appropriate that they’re online any more. I hate to be old school about it, but I’m not sure being left an eBook or Flickr account is quite as precious as the original book or a box of old photos owned by someone you loved!

What are your thoughts?