With each day, our digital legacy expands. Whether uploading a selfie to the cloud, sending an email or posting on social media, we are constantly engaging with our growing digital footprint. But what exactly is a digital legacy and what happens to our data when we die?
A digital legacy is inclusive of all your online accounts, domain names, digital files, blogs, social media and networking identities. Think of your digital legacy as all the digital information left behind after you die, including:
- Cloud storage accounts
- Email accounts
- Bank and investment portals
- Utility company portals
- Blogs and domains
- Social media accounts
- Online subscriptions, such as streaming services and digital reading platforms
- Seller/buyer accounts such as PayPal, Amazon and Venmo.
As your digital legacy often reflects your most personal records and communications with family and friends, it is more important than ever to have a plan for what should happen to these accounts after you die. And, while you might think of your digital assets as your own property, you are not the true owner of many of the digital accounts you use in your daily life. Rather, you hold licenses or accept terms and conditions established by a business to access your online account or profile. This means that upon your death, these accounts, and the personal data associated with them, won’t necessarily pass under the terms of your Will or Trust. In fact, in most cases, they won’t.
The fate of your digital legacy varies for each of your accounts and their terms of usage. For example, some social media accounts have the option to change into memorial accounts, but only if you activate such settings during your lifetime. Your family may be locked out of your work email and lose important content, including pictures and text sent from a work account. Accessing financial information may become difficult if your family does not have access to your account username and password, slowing down the administration of your estate.