It’s a well-known fact that a Will is an essential tool when it comes to estate planning. Yet in today’s digital age the concept of your digital estate has started to become a key consideration. But how do you tackle this new area? Steve Wright, from our Estates team, explains what to be aware of when it comes to your digital estate.
Before the growth of the internet it was generally accepted that any assets, possessions and belongings would be apportioned based on the terms of a Last Will and Testament. In today’s digital age we also need to give consideration to what happens to a person’s online assets and presence. Your digital footprint – accounts, passwords, usernames and security questions – could be significant.
Completing a digital assets form wraps up all of this information in one document. This ensures your family have access to this information when needed. If you don’t have a checklist of your digital information your loved ones may struggle to access accounts or online tools – or even know about them at all.
Your digital assets
Today many of us have extensive online dealings. When considering whether you need to make a note of these it may help to think through how many of the following apply to you:
- Bank account information, passwords and memorable information
- Other financial information including investment accounts, online trust funds, ISAs etc
- Password or access information for your computer, tablet and smartphone
- Wi-Fi passcodes
- Television passwords e.g. Netflix, Sky
- Social Media access – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn etc
- Loyalty cards, membership numbers and gift cards
- Medical IDs and insurance numbers
- Web based photo libraries
- Shopping accounts e.g. Amazon, eBay, PayPal
- Recurring subscriptions and associated payment cards
- Information or data stored electronically, online or on a physical device
Making a note of your digital estate enables you to list all of your online assets and any associated access information. Some social media sites do also have provision to add a digital heir. This allows someone you have nominated to carry out any final wishes such as adding a message for your contacts. Google offers an Inactive Account Manager feature, which allows you to include up to 10 contacts who can access your data after your death. And Facebook and Instagram have an option to allow you to select someone who can memorialise your page.
The right documents
Furthermore, it’s worth remembering that any information about your digital assets should be a separate document to your Last Will and Testament. The latter becomes a public document after your death so anyone can access it – and the information in it. We would recommend that a copy of the checklist is kept with your Will or the executors advised of its whereabouts. This also allows you to keep your digital checklist updated without having to formally change your Will every time you change your password!