Financial & Legal News

Leaving a Digital Legacy

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Whist the general premise of bequeathing items to loved ones in a Will remains popular what we leave behind has changed - our legacies have altered, gone are the days of just cash and chattels, in their place is a whole digital legacy.

Digital Legacy through Tech providers

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 and as such you may wish to specify who owns these when you die. Hot on the heels of Facebook and Google, Apple is now making it easier to pass on your data to loved ones when you pass away.

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 program allows people to select up to five “legacy contacts” in settings to whom the assets can be transferred after death.  The aim is for it to be easy and stress free, they don’t even need an Apple ID or an Apple device, all they need is the 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 sees digital assets as important parts of people’s legacies.

“We are living in a digital world and therefore creating a digital legacy without realising its significance and importance. 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 a smooth a process as possible for their loved ones,” says Lucy

Other tech giants have tackled this issue, 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 3 months.  Similarly, with Facebook you can have a ‘legacy contact’ giving someone limited access to memorialise the account.

“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 and we will chat through all these complex issues and advise clients to identify executors who can manage their digital estate,” added Lucy.

Grieving families struggle to access digital assets

It is important to consider your digital assets as in a case against Apple a husband had not made a Will and his grieving wife and daughter could not access his phone for photographs and videos to remember him. A judge ordered Apple Inc to grant the widow access and a Court Order was required to force Apple to release 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.

How can we help

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 enquiries@pearsonlegal.co.uk

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

Written by Lucy Roughley

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