• Kylie Simmonds-Cox

Have you considered your Digital Estate?

Have you considered the impact the Coronavirus pandemic has had on you digitally? Now, what do we mean by digitally and your Digital Estate? As a result of the pandemic, have you been using Zoom or Skype to communicate with loved ones? Or have you connected with your family and friends via Social Media in the absence of face to face interaction? Maybe you have had to order your shopping and other items online because the shops have been closed? How about your Banking? Has this been conducted online due to branch closures or because you have been shielding at home? Have you gone online to reorganise travel arrangements or request refunds due to cancellations? How have you had appointments with your doctor or other medical practitioners, have these been delivered via online chat rather than face to face? Have you been using a mobile app to order your favourite takeaway? And have you given instructions to your Will Writer or Estate Planner via online chat to make your Will? If you have done any of these, then you have created your Digital Estate.

The Coronavirus pandemic has really pushed this digital transformation and other than Key Workers, the majority of us have been working from home or spending a lot more time at home than we are used to. All of this has been made possible, because of technology, and this has been the backbone for remote workers and business continuity.

It is thought that 94% of us have a Digital Estate made up of online accounts, yet only 25% have planned what to do with them after they die. It has been found that the average person has around 90 online accounts, this would include things such as email, social media, loyalty shopping schemes, gaming, gambling, shopping, digital photos, video conferencing and financial accounts to name but a few. But would your loved ones know which online accounts you have?

If your loved ones do not know the existence of your online accounts, then your beneficiaries may miss out on inheritance that is due to them and your accounts could add to the £200bn already lying in dormant accounts. Digital Assets do not have to have a monetary value, they may have a sentimental value instead. Your loved ones could be left exposed to the difficulties which can arise following your death, such as your memories being locked down and inaccessible or even the theft of your identity. In addition, Social Media accounts can cause upset for those you leave behind because it will prove difficult to remove them or create a memorial without the correct permissions.

The concept of a Digital Estate is not a new one, but greater attention is needed to ensure they are part of your overall estate plan and are dealt with effectively when you are no longer here or if you are unable to deal with them yourself, perhaps due to illness. We've included a couple of pointers below on how to plan your Digital Legacy:

  • Prepare an inventory - list what online accounts you have, where they are and how to access them. Be sure to include your laptop, mobile phone and tablet.

  • Appoint a Trusted Person - Appoint someone you trust to deal with your Digital Assets in the way you would want.

  • Record your Wishes - what would you want to happen to these online accounts? Should they be deleted or preserved?

  • Allow access - how can your loved one access your online accounts.

  • Talk to your Estate Planner - Make sure your wishes concerning your Digital Assets are recorded in your Will and / or Lasting Powers of Attorney.

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