How to handle your digital legacy

We are firmly in the digitised age. In almost 60 years the extraordinary progression from the first electronic computer to the clutches of social media that bombard us daily have revolutionised the way we interact with each other.

The internet continues to grow each day as more and more of what we do goes online.

Today, more than 4 billion people use the internet, a 7% increase from January 2017, which is more than half of the world’s population [1]. The internet has transformed the way we work, learn, shop, play, grow and live. But what happens to all we have out there in the World Wide Web once we pass away?

Digital Legacy and Assets

As we increasingly expose more of ourselves online, it becomes paramount to manage and plan our digital legacy. A digital legacy is all the digital assets that an individual has following their death.

A digital asset is anything that you have purchased, stored or created online. Some common examples are: blogs, photos, videos, music, cloud storage, email and social media accounts. Similar to the physical world, in the digital world our assets can be managed after death.

The Law Society recommends that we leave instructions to our loved ones on what we would like to happen to our digital assets following death. It is important to enable your family and friends to fulfil your wishes.

Social Media Will

3 out of the 4 billion people who use the internet have a social media account. There are now over 2 billion Facebook users, 800 million Instagram users and 330 million Twitter users [1].

Different platforms have different policies regarding the accounts of users who have passed away. Most have the option to deactivate or delete the account, although profiles are increasingly becoming memorialised. For many, having the chance to access a loved one’s memorialised account can have profound advantages. It can act as a place of remembrance where they can re-read conversations they had with their friend or relative and look through photos and videos that they shared.

For instance, Facebook give you both options, you can appoint someone close to you to monitor your memorialised account or your account can be permanently deleted. Twitter offer the same. However, they ask for a verified immediate family member to be appointed to have an account deleted.  Instagram give users the option to have their account memorialised or deactivated but ask for proof, such as a death certificate or an obituary, to be presented.

Whether you would like your social media accounts memorialised or deleted, it is advisable that you have a social media Will.

“Your Social media will People should leave clear instructions about what should happen to their social media, computer games and other online accounts after their death, according to the law society “– The Law Society (UK).

There are many templates and instructions available online on how to write a social media Will. DeadSocial, an independent social enterprise dedicated to ‘End of life planning in today’s digital world’ [2], offer a great range of simple and informative tutorials.

Your social media accounts will not be in the forefront of your mind when writing your Will, but when the time comes, having access to this digital asset may not only serve as a wonderful resource of remembrance for those closest to you, but as a formula for ensuring the resilience of your memory and the continuation of support for the causes closest to your heart.

From before they are born until they are into their twenties, we help vulnerable children across the UK. Our 7,000 staff and volunteers operate over 600 services, improving the lives of 390,000 children, teenagers, parents and carers every year. We succeed by doing what’s right, doing what’s needed, and doing what works for children. For information about Gifts in Wills at Action for Children please visit our website, email us [email protected] or call 0300 123 2112 to speak to our legacy team directly.

[1] We are Social and Hootsuite 2018, Global Digital Reports

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