A digital legacy is the “amount of electronic data that a user leaves behind on data media and on the internet when he or she dies”. There are two aspects to a digital legacy – digital assets and digital presence. Here’s what you need to know about managing and preparing both to create your digital legacy.
The Power of Your Digital Legacy
Just as social media has transformed our lives, it is also transforming our deaths. This is especially true on Facebook, where an estimated 8,000 users pass away daily. In response to this, Facebook has created a setting where profiles can be memorialized and act as a virtual guestbook. On other platforms, like Twitter, accounts are deleted after a user passes but the nature of the site allows discussions and memories to be shared among friends and family.
Serving as a place to share memories and thoughts, social media has become a place where friends can connect and families can read through pages of treasured memories. More than a website, social media can become a place of comfort for grieving friends and families.
Digital assets are any music, books, photos, financial data, and anything else that is stored online. Because many digital assets are downloaded, the user does not own the music, books, and movies. Instead, the user has purchased a license that allows him or her to use the data until their passing, when the license usually expires.
Typically, digital assets are lost on passing and will not be considered part of your “estate” to pass down to family. Emma Myers, Head of Wills, Probates, and Lifetime Planning for Saga Legal Services explains, “A lot of people think that when you download music, for example, that you’ve bought it, and it’s as good as having a CD that you can then pass onto somebody. But what we’re finding is that actually isn’t the case. Quite often it’s just a license that you get to use for your lifetime – one of those end user licenses that pops up and you tick the box without reading through it all. So you could have spent quite a large amount on these items, only to have nothing to pass on to future generations.”
Digital presence is your online presence. This would include social media profiles like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media platforms. Here are the guidelines for each of the major social media sites for profile management after death:
Facebook has a feature allowing profiles to become memorialized. Users can choose a legacy contact before passing, which will allow that person to be in charge of the account after the user passes. If there is no legacy contact, immediate family members can request the removal of the deceased’s Facebook profile, or request that the profile be memorialized. According to Facebook, “In the memorialized state, sensitive information such as status updates and contact information is removed from the profile, while privacy settings on the account are changed so that only confirmed, existing friends can see the profile or locate it in Facebook’s internal search engine.” Additionally, the word “remembering” will be shown in front of the profile name and friends and family can share memories of the deceased’s life, making the page a virtual guestbook.
Twitter requires that a form be submitted that reports the death of a user. Upon submission of that form, the account will be deactivated. Family will need to provide a username, the death certificate, and proof of their identity and relationship. No one will have access to the account at any point. The account will merely be deleted.
LinkedIn will allow any user to report the death of another user using their submission form. The form will ask for the member’s name, the URL to the LinkedIn profile that is to be removed, the relationship to the deceased, the date he or she passed, and a link to the obituary.
Pinterest will delete an account once they are notified a user has passed. Similar to Twitter, no account information can be given out. Once a death is verified, the account will be deactivated.
Plan Your Digital Legacy
In April of 2014, the Law Society began encouraging people to leave clear instructions for what should happen to digital assets after their passing. Law Society President Nicholas Fluck notes, “By making our wishes clear now, it will be easier for loved ones to recover pictures to cherish and will help with the more practical issues such as online bank accounts.”
These tips can help you prepare your digital legacy, reducing stress and confusion for family members after your passing.
- Make a comprehensive list of your social media profiles
- Make a list of where your digital assets are housed.
- Go through each asset or profile and notate what you want to have happen to each one.
- Do not put passwords or pins in your will
- Consider sharing passwords and pins with a spouse or trusted adult child.
What steps are you taking to prepare your digital legacy? If you are unsure about where to start, contact us today. Our trusted advisors can walk you through your digital assets and digital presence and make a plan for your future.