Digital Legacies

What is Your Digital Legacy?

Most of us now have some sort of on-line profile or presence, be it through multiple social media platforms or just storing digital assets such as photos in the cloud. It is becoming increasingly important to think about what happens to this ‘digital legacy’, and who will have access to it, when we are gone.

Understanding the significance of managing our digital legacy is essential. Without careful planning, these virtual remnants may be inaccessible or become a burden for those we leave behind.

The Importance of Planning Your Digital Legacy

Preserving your online identity for future generations is important in this digital age. Without adequate planning, your digital presence could be lost or mishandled after your death.

One of the main reasons for planning your digital legacy lies in preventing unauthorised access to your account and personal information.

Also, without clear instructions, your loved ones may encounter difficulties gaining access to your accounts. By documenting your login credentials and specifying authorised access, you ensure that only trusted individuals handle your digital footprint. Moreover, creating a digital estate plan for your digital legacy guarantees a smooth transition of your digital assets after your death.

How to Protect Your Digital Legacy

Your online presence encompasses various aspects, including social media profiles, email accounts, financial services, and even cryptocurrency holdings. By incorporating these assets in your digital legacy plan, you provide guidance on their management or transfer to designated beneficiaries.

To effectively plan your digital legacy, consider these steps:

  • Take an inventory – create a comprehensive list of all your online accounts and their associated credentials.
  • Document login and security information – for each platform and account, record the login details, security questions/answers, recovery options, and any other relevant details. Keep this information up-to-date.
  • Recording and Organising – choose a secure and accessible format for this information. Physical storage options include writing it down on paper and keeping it in a safe place. Digital storage options include encrypted files, password-protected documents on off-line devices, or using secure online password managers.
  • Choose a trusted digital executor – designate someone responsible for managing and distributing your digital assets as per your wishes.
  • Specify permission – determine who should have access to specific accounts or data.
  • Consider privacy concerns – decide whether certain information should be deleted or kept private after your death.
  • Communicate with loved ones – inform them about the existence of your digital plan and where to find it.

Choosing a Digital Executor

Selecting a competent and trustworthy individual to manage your digital legacy is essential. Your digital executor will be responsible for handling your online presence after you die, ensuring that your accounts are managed as per your wishes. Key points to consider when choosing a digital executor include:

  • Discussing responsibilities and expectations – have open and honest conversations with your chosen executor, clearly communicating your expectations regarding the handling of your online accounts and any specific instructions you may have.
  • Granting necessary permissions and access – to effectively manage your digital legacy, your executor will require access to your online accounts. Provide them with the necessary login information, considering secure storage methods such as password managers or designated locations.
  • Choosing someone trustworthy – opt for someone who is reliable, tech-savvy, and capable of managing your digital assets responsibly. They should respect your privacy and adhere to any legal obligations regarding data protection.
  • Considering their availability – ensure the chosen executor has time and willingness to fulfill their duties effectively. Managing another person’s digital legacy can be time-consuming.
  • Planning for contingencies – life is unpredictable, so designate an alternative executor in case the primary one becomes unavailable.

Personal Messages in Your Digital Legacy

Writing personal and heartfelt messages or letters to the important people in your life enables you to express your deepest thoughts and emotions. It can help your loved ones to feel forever connected to you.

This is an opportunity to explain significant life lessons or values that you wish to pass on. Sharing memories, stories, and advice through videos or audio recordings adds a personal touch to your digital legacy, preserving precious moments for generations to come.

When storing and sharing personal messages, consider these options:

  • Save messages as digital files – convert handwritten letters or notes to digital formats such as PDFs.
  • Use email accounts – draft emails containing personal information, life lessons, or memories and save them as drafts.
  • Record videos or audio messages – use smartphones or other devices to capture words and moments.
  • Use social media platforms – share meaningful posts on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and X (formerly Twitter).

There are organisations that enable you to securely save this type of information and to choose who has access to it. To find out more, see whiteballoon Digital Legacy Providers and Digital Locker Providers.

Requirements for Key Digital Platforms

Each platform has its own terms of service, so it is important to look at each site individually.

Here is a summary of a few of the main platforms:

Apple Devices & ICloud

Apple accounts are non-transferable and rights to content terminate on death unless otherwise required by law. In order to obtain access, Apple requires that the next of kin obtains a court order that names them as the rightful inheritor of their loved one’s personal information. If you want to be sure that photos can be viewed after you death, make sure you keep copies on a memory stick or hard drive, or share them with a trusted family member or friend.

For information on how to request access to a deceased family member’s account, see Apple Support information.

For information on how to request deletion of a deceased person’s Apple ID see the Apple Support information.

Facebook

Facebook allows a person to appoint a Legacy Contact who, on their death, can either delete their account or set up a memorial page.  A Legacy Contact does not have access to messages the account holder may have sent.

For more information, see Facebook Legacy Contact.

X (formerly) Twitter

Next of kin must present a copy of their ID and a death certificate to have the account deactivated. X is unable to allow access to anyone, regardless of their relationship to the deceased. For more information see X’s information.

E-mail

Policies regarding access and requirements for closing accounts vary between providers:

Gmail – Gmail require a copy of the deceased’s ID and death certificate.  In ‘certain circumstances’ it ‘provides content from a deceased user’s account’. For more information, see Google support.

Yahoo – For information on what happens when someone dies and how to close an account see Yahoo support.

Microsoft – For more information on what happens when someone dies and how to close an account see Microsoft support.

Creating Digital Memorials

People are choosing to be remembered, or to ‘live on’, in new and sometimes quite remarkable ways. This field is developing all the time, but some of the recent innovations are:

Chatbots – Create a ‘virtual you’ from texts, social media posts and other information, that can converse with friends and relatives after you are gone.

Afternote – Create a message for your loved ones that will be delivered after your death.

Facebook – Your facebook account can be memorialised.

Virtual Graves and Memorials – Where families can post photos and memories and pay their respects.

Recording and Storing Information

As well as your online presence on various platforms, there are other, secure ways to digitally record and store images, important documents and other information. To find some of the organisations that provide these services, please see whiteballoon Digital Legacy Providers and Digital Locker Providers.

Remember, it is never too early to plan for the future. Take action now to ensure that after you have gone your digital assets are managed according to your wishes.

For more in-depth information on how to manage your digital legacy, go to:

Digital Legacy Association

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