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A Digital Afterlife?

View profile for Kathryn Loveland-Blockley
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A Digital Afterlife?

From shopping to social media, communication to financial affairs, more and more of our lives are moving online. But what happens after we die? Will our online activities live on forever? Do we want them to? Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning expert, Kathryn Loveland-Blockley looks at the growing demand for the management of ‘Digital Assets’.

As our lives become increasingly intertwined with technology, it is important to understand what we mean by ‘Digital Assets’ and consider what will happen to them after we pass away.

You may think, “I haven’t any cryptocurrency,” (such as the infamous Bitcoin)  “so Digital Assets don’t apply to me” but these term refers to the whole range of online accounts, files and data that hold personal sentimental or financial value.  This includes social media including Facebook and Instagram, correspondence on email addresses, photo libraries, online banking, credit on PayPal or betting sites, and so much more.

Though a comparatively recent phenomenon, overlooking Digital Assets in Estate Planning can lead to serious complications and potential loss of valuable information or assets, so people must give careful consideration to their online activities when making their Wills and estate planning.

The most crucial question is how executors, appointed to administer the wishes of the deceased, are able to gain access to Digital Assets and the information stored in them?

Some companies have set procedures in place for when someone passes away. Online shopping giant, Amazon, for example, has set up ‘Amazon Household’ in order to link more than one account so when someone dies, photos, documents, and payment details are still accessible. Social media site, Facebook has a couple of options - you can have your page deleted or set up as a memorial.

Options will no doubt change as time goes on, so it is important to keep up to date, undertaking a regular review of what you have, what you use and their terms and conditions.

I am seeing growing use of ‘Digital Executors’. This can be the same as your ‘offline’ executors, or someone different, but they would be responsible for managing and distributing your Digital Assets.

If this all seems complicated or confusing, that is where professionals, who undertake regular training prove their worth as guides through what to consider and the latest measures in place to manage them.

As we all make evergrowing digital footprints, we must recognise the financial value and sentimental significance of what we create, purchase and store. By taking proactive steps to address these issues, we can ensure a smooth following of our digital lives to our ‘real life’ ones.

To discuss the future of your Digital Assets, or any issue regarding Wills, Trust and Estate Planning,  Katherine can be contacted on 01202 315005 or at k.loveland-blockley@duttongregory.co.uk