Remember Online Legacy Quite Vitrually
A Dorset law firm is ‘virtually’ warning internet users to remember their digital legacy when making a Will.
Battens Solicitors is urging people to consider how they want their online presence and assets to be managed as well as their finances and heirlooms.
It comes after a grieving mum became embroiled in a dispute with Facebook after the social media giant locked or ‘memorialised’ her daughter’s account following her tragic death from a brain tumour at 19.
Although much of Becky Palmer’s account remained visible, her mother Louise was unable to continue to access her late daughter’s account – including private messages - using her old log-in details.
Battens has advised people to leave categoric instructions on paper about what should happen to their digital assets after they are gone but also provide a list of online accounts so they aren’t missed by the executor.
These can include social media, online computer games, banks accounts, music, films, investments, photos, email, PayPal and even Bitcoin accounts.
Christine Butterfield, Dorchester-based solicitor in Battens’ Wills, Estates and Trusts Department, said: “We live in a digital world where many of our assets and treasured memories are online.
“Although it makes life more convenient, it can be more difficult to pass keepsakes, such as photos, letters and music, on or ensure social media and online accounts are dealt with in accordance with someone’s wishes.”
She added: “We are seeing an increasing number of people consider their digital legacy when they make or update their will.
“People can leave a record of their digital assets and accounts with their will, and how they would like these managed.
“For example, they can leave instructions for their social media accounts to be deleted or archived, or for pictures to be printed out and passed on to the appropriate person.
“It is also prudent to leave a list of online bank and financial accounts with a will as an executor may not be aware these exist if statements are only in a digital form on email.
“Client confidentiality is always respected so this is a much safer way than leaving a list of passwords or PINs with a relative or on a computer.”
The Law Society, the independent professional body for solicitors, has also urged people to leave clear instructions about their online assets and presence.
It said that having a list would also make it easier for the deceased’s family and executor of the estate to fulfil their wishes.