Following the death of a loved one it is usually necessary for family and friends to sort through belongings and close traditional accounts. However, in the modern era with computers, mobile phones, and social media it is necessary to think about the deceased’s digital legacy as well as physical assets. With an increased focus on online security accessing the digital accounts of a person that has died is unlikely to be straightforward, meaning that without pre-planning content and images may be lost, or stranded in the digital universe forever. Fortunately, there are things that you can do before death to preserve and control your digital legacy.
What is a Digital Legacy?
In 2023 mobile phones, computers, the Internet, and social media are a day-to-day part of life. We snap pictures on our phones, store them in the cloud, and upload them to social media. We have email addresses, and apps for everything, including data sensitive options such as online banking and healthcare, and other less private apps such as games and parking meters. Everything that we do online is our digital legacy, and in the event of a sudden or unexpected death it is increasingly difficult for family and friends to access and deal with the large amount of information and data that is personal to us in the online world. If you need support following the death of a loved one the Digital Legacy Association has an array of information on their website.
Why Is Legacy Planning Vital?
Talking about death is still a taboo topic for many people, however, in the same way that people are increasingly pre-planning their funeral it is important to pre-plan for your digital legacy. In the unlikely event that you were to unexpectedly die tomorrow would your next of kin be able to access your bank account, know who your insurance is with, or log into your Facebook account? In many cases even our phones and laptops can only be accessed via a pin number, thumbprint or Face ID making it extremely difficult for others to have any access to our digital world.
Fortunately, there is now a multitude of services available that enable you to pre-plan for your digital legacy and to help make access easier for your loved ones.
- Apple Legacy Contact
- Google Inactive Account Manager
- Social Media
- External Services
Of course, in addition to your digital legacy you should consider pre-planning your funeral. You can nominate Steve as your celebrant and pre-plan the content of your funeral with him for free. Speak to Steve to find out more.
Apple Legacy Contact
From iPhones to MacBooks Apple is one of the biggest businesses in online tech, and as such they have introduced the option of adding a legacy contact. Adding a legacy contact enables the nominated person to access your Apple accounts in the event of your death. Nominating a contact is done via settings where you create an access key, upon your death the nominee can provide Apple with the access key and a copy of your death certificate to gain access to your photos, messages, notes, and files. It should be noted that access is not granted to any data external to Apple such as bank accounts.
Google Inactive Account Manager
Google has taken a different approach, whereby, if your account becomes inactive for a specified period nominated email addresses or mobile numbers are alerted and given access to data you choose that is stored by Google. Inactivity can be set from 3-18 months, and data available to share includes emails, photographs and files, calendar and Chrome Pay. You can nominate up to 10 people and they will have access to your data for three months after being alerted of inactivity. Alternatively, you can ask Google to delete all your data if the account becomes inactive.
There are many different social media platforms, and they all have different ways of allowing a digital legacy to be dealt with. Facebook and Instagram both allow a relative or friend to inform them of your death which triggers the account to be memorialised or deleted, if you have pre-chosen this option. Facebook also allows a legacy contact to be added. Twitter does not provide any access to the deceased’s loved ones but will deactivate an account when proof of death is provided. At the time of writing LinkedIn and Snapchat do not offer any digital legacy service.
Due to the issues that many people have faced when dealing with their loved one’s digital legacy several businesses have set up that aim to simplify the task. Steve recommends Life Ledger a free to use service that allows you to pre-register all your accounts including banks, utilities, pensions, subscription services, social media and more. Providing as much information as you can prior to your death will simplify the administration of your digital legacy for your loved ones and provide access to retrieve data, and the ability to close accounts on your behalf. You can find out more about Life Ledger in this recent blog.
Preparing For Your Digital Legacy
Spending some time setting up a service such as Life Ledger and nominating access to your digital accounts will undoubtedly make your death admin easier for family and friends. It is never too early to pre-plan; and ensuring that all your information is in one place and accessible will help ensure that your digital legacy is dealt with as per your final wishes.