How to Plan Your Digital Legacy

None of us likes to think about our own death. Still, giving yourself plenty of time to plan your estate enables you to know what will happen to the assets you have built up. Writing a will helps ease the burden on your heirs during the already difficult period of bereavement, and that is precisely how you can plan your digital legacy too. 

Statutory provisions governing how the material assets of a deceased person are to be handled are comprehensive. Anyone who can present a certificate of inheritance is able to dispose of the money in the decedent’s checking or savings account. Here, there is no need to access his or her online banking data. But what about the emails, online profiles, texts, videos, or photos that the deceased has left behind?

What happens to a person’s data after he or she dies?

Case law on this is relatively new. What is more, many providers are based abroad, which makes it harder to handle any legal issues with them. For example, valuable data and memories may be lost because the heirs have no login information and the provider refuses to allow access to them. And without the password for an electronic wallet, all cryptocurrency is worthless for the heirs – even though this could encompass considerable value.

Conversely, digital assets and memories could also fall into the wrong hands, and that is why everyone should give some thought to their digital legacy in good time.

What to Know About Your Digital Legacy

  • What services do I use? 
  • What digital data do I have and where is it stored?
  • What do I want to pass on to my heirs? 
  • Where are the assets that I want to keep?
  • What do I want to delete?

Note down the login information to various websites. Handwritten notes signed and dated provide better proof in the event of a dispute.

Next, find one or several trustworthy people who you can assume will respect your wishes in an emergency. You do not necessarily need to have powers of attorney certified or notarized. But doing so may make sense, particularly if, for example, you are a self-employed person who produces digital products and assets.

If you do not want to entrust your digital legacy to either a relative or another person, of course, you can approach a professional administrator or attorney. This usually costs less than you might suppose.

Digital legacy planning also covers illness

When recording your wishes for your digital legacy, consider serious and chronic illness too. For example, if you have sole power of disposition over accounts, an envelope containing the most important information for accessing bank accounts, accounting software, and other important services can make life easier for your loved ones.

If you have become heir to a digital legacy

Whether you have assumed the role of a trusted individual or become heir to a digital legacy, be aware that when handling digital data, you have advanced far into the private world of the person in question. When you open another person’s inbox, things may come to light that put the person in a different light or hurt the feelings of others if they become known. For this reason, respect the person’s privacy and concern yourself only with the steps indicated for executing the will.

If you are an heir, remember that by accepting the inheritance, you also accept the liabilities of the deceased. This is why you should be the first to ensure that any ongoing subscriptions and contracts be terminated as soon as possible in order to avoid financial losses.

Further reading