Increase in People Thinking About Digital Inheritance

Have you decided what will happen to your cute collection of cat pics on Instagram and your wildly popular raw food diet blog once you die?

Okay, forgive us our flippancy but a recent YouGov poll highlighted that digital inheritance is something more of us are thinking about. As so much of our lives are conducted online, it’s right that we consider what happens to our accounts when we die.

The YouGov survey revealed 26 percent of people plan to hand over their social media accounts to their loved ones. And only seven percent of respondents to the survey wanted their social media accounts left online indefinitely after they died, with 67 percent saying they wanted them taken offline.

Complex area

In an article in the Daily Telegraph, experts discussed the emerging and complex area of digital inheritance and who ‘owns’ social media accounts, as this is often the social media and tech companies.

And what happens to the books you buy on an e-reader or the music you purchase on iTunes? As the laws stands, electronic content such as this doesn’t ‘belong’ to you in the way a hard copy book or CD does—you only own the licence to read to it, so it is not part of your estate to pass on. This often surprises people, particularly when they count just how much they have spent on CDs and e-books over the years.

Executing an estate is a complex business but made more so in this digital age. Most people will have far more accounts online than even those close to them know about. They can vary from social media, to accounts that bring in money through affiliate advertising, for instance. In less than a decade, a host of social media platforms have sprung up, some of them aimed at more niche communities such as GoodReads for readers. Facebook offers a memorialise option which can kick in after someone dies and allows for a relative or friend to act as their ‘legacy contact’.

Digital assets

Legal firms sometimes suggest people appoint a separate executor to look after digital assets, or at the very least to make a list of all the digital assets they own and sites they belong to and think carefully about who they give the passwords to. Again, this isn’t straightforward as many companies will not accept others accessing a person’s account.

Danny Curran, Finders International’s founder and managing director, said: “It’s smart to think about your digital inheritance. At the very least, consider how distressing it could be if your relatives see people interacting with your Facebook page oblivious of your death.

“When it comes to assets, the law hasn’t yet kept pace with technology and it will be interesting to see how this works out over time. If, heaven forbid, some of social media’s biggest players die in the next few years, we might see changes in the way the law works regarding digital inheritance. The Kardashians, for instance, have a huge, monetised presence on Twitter and Instagram, and I imagine the wills they have take this into account.”

If you would like to get in touch with Finders International regarding tracing heirs or assets to estates, please contact us today on Freephone 0800 085 8796, email [email protected] or visit our website.