Making a digital will

Managing people’s affairs after death used to be simpler. Estates are normally left in a normal written will, a legal document which allows a person to give instructions on what to do with their possessions once they pass away and to declare a legal guardian for their children.

However, now you also need to consider what happens to your digital assets and online presence when the inevitable happens.  You need to ensure that someone else could access to all your accounts for business and personal. A digital will allows you to manage your online presence and assets in one document, without having to make arrangements with each site individually, as not all sites allow you to do this. Your website names, website addresses, usernames, passwords, and any other relevant information like security questions and answers will be stored in one place ensuring your family have everything they need when the time comes.

How can I make a digital will?

Arranging a digital will is essential. Once it’s set up it will be easy to manage and maintain moving forward. You’ll need to create you digital will and assign your digital assets to your friends and family. Once the inevitable happens, and your demise is certified, your digital assets will be sent to those that you have pre-chosen, be that family, friends or a solicitor. There are companies that allow you manage all your passwords and online information in one, secure place. With some you can also store notes for other types of important information, make your last wishes known and even attach documents, photos and leave messages for your loved ones.

Problems with digital wills

There are a few obstacles to bear in mind.

  • Make sure you include all the information needed and that all passwords are listed. Without them, online accounts cannot be accessed.
  • When using an online site to create your will, make sure it uses encryption which converts information or data into a code, this will keep your online will safe and secure.
  • Be sure it’s noted if any accounts need two-factor authentication, and detail how to log in.
  • Remember that to access the information in the digital will, your family members will need to show proof of a death certificate to online networks and digital executors.
  • Digital wills may also go against the terms of service agreements that many websites have. For instance, if in their terms it says they cancel on death you may not be able to transfers accounts another individual.
  • Some websites such as Google, Facebook and Instagram provide the ability to activate a digital heir.
  • In Google there is an Inactive Account Manager feature that lets you pick up to 10 trusted contacts who will be notified if your account goes inactive and will be given access to your data (with your permission). Facebook and Instagram allow you to select someone so they can memorialize your page.

Things to bear in mind

Do not include your passwords or other digital asset access information in your Last Will and Testament. Your will becomes a public document once you’ve passed away, so anyone can read the sensitive information it may contain. In the will, just refer to an outside document which contains all the necessary information needed to settle your digital estate. Then you will be able to maintain your digital will, update it and add to it without having to formally change your will or put your digital assets at risk. And remember, in the UK, only a Last Will and Testament on paper, signed in ink by appropriate witnesses will be legally recognised. Although your “digital will” could contain information where your Last Will and Testament can be found, it cannot be used instead and a digital will may not stand up in a court of law.

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