Lancashire law firm urges people to protect their digital legacy
Wednesday 13th August 2014
While more and more of us are spending an increasing amount of time online, a survey from Lancashire based law firm, Marsden Rawsthorn has found that only six per cent of people are making provision for what will happen to their ‘digital legacy’ when they die.
The reason may be that people do not consider their digital legacy to have any importance, or realise the difficulties, that can be encountered when someone dies without leaving instructions on how to close online accounts and profiles.
Explains Helen Gaskell, Associate Director at Marsden Rawsthorn: “Your digital legacy can include articles of sentimental value, such as photographs uploaded to Facebook or tweets on Twitter and items of a sensitive personal nature such as emails.
“It can also involve assets that have required financial outlay, such as music or movie downloads and online books, or assets that have acquired worth such as bitcoins or online gaming characters. Bruce Willis recently lodged a legal challenge to allow him to leave his iTunes music library to his children when he dies. However, this was rejected as such items are only available by licence to the purchaser and cannot be specifically bequeathed.”
The law firm, which has offices in Preston and Chorley, highlights that as yet social media platforms, email providers and other internet sites do not have a uniform way of dealing with the death of a user:
“It is also important to remember,” explains Helen, “that without clear authority, your family may struggle to deal with online profiles or access accounts. Your digital legacy could be a cause for family conflict just like any other unbequeathed asset. It could also lead to heartache if sentimental items such as photographs are never recovered, or worse still, if social media accounts are hijacked by trolls because the family cannot deactivate it.”
A shocking 66 per cent of respondents to the survey indicated that their digital legacy was not included in their will because they do not think it’s important. However, with people of all ages now using emails, social media, online shopping, PayPal, online banking and media download services, Marsden Rawsthorn is urging them to think again.
Helen concludes: “Digital legacies are now recognised by The Law Society’s Wills & Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS) protocol.
“We recommend that people make a will to ensure that somebody is authorised to deal with the closure of digital assets just as with other tangible assets. Alongside the will, we recommend completing a log of their digital assets, to make it easier for executors to access following their death.”
Authorised and Regulated by The Solicitors Regulation Authority. Authority number 591294.
For details of the professional rules governing the conduct of solicitors go to www.sra.org.uk/code-of-conduct.page