What's your digital legacy?

We’ve been talking about investments for a while, so this article moves on to a different topic. When we talk to clients about their financial assets for inheritance tax planning, we also need to discuss their digital assets. Here are some things to think about and some useful tools to help.

You probably know the Benjamin Franklin quote: “Nothing is certain except death and taxes”. We all have to deal with the latter at least once a year. But how comfortable are you when talking about the former?

Some clients are so organised that they’ve already paid for their funeral in advance. Some have told their loved ones what they want verbally, but not formally. Others fear death and don’t like being reminded of their own mortality, or are superstitious about discussing it.

Wherever you are on that spectrum, you have to accept that it’s all part of sensible planning. And, if you don’t leave everything in good order, you’ll be leaving your executors and beneficiaries an absolute nightmare.

What this means to you

  • Do you have a smartphone?
  • Ever done online shopping?
  • Set up a profile on social media?
  • Store your photos and videos in the cloud?
  • Downloaded music, films or apps?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions, you have a digital footprint. And that means you’ll be leaving a digital legacy.

To open any online accounts, you no doubt had to sign up with your email address and choose a password. To avoid your accounts getting hacked, we recommend you have a good password policy. For passwords that are not platform-dependent, you can use a tool such as LastPass or 1Password.

Many website T&Cs forbid account access to be passed on, even when someone dies. If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably seen the algorithm prompting you to wish ‘happy birthday’ to a late friend. I know I have.

Nominate someone tech-savvy to be your digital executor. They will be responsible for sorting out your digital photos and videos, posting appropriate messages and memorialising or closing your online accounts. To tell your loved ones what you’d like done with your accounts after your death, you can use a tool such as OnceIveGone, MyDigitalLegacy and MyWishes.

If you’re concerned about computers or identity theft, and believe a burglary is less likely than hacking, a good starting point is to create a list. Ask us for our PDF called My Documents – it’s a form you can download, complete and print out. Then store it in a tin or drawer, and tell your executors, beneficiaries and children where they can find it. It’s not 100% secure but it’s better than nothing. Note that you’ll have to keep updating it, probably more often than you update your Will.

One more link. If you’re unlucky and experience cyber crime, report it at ActionFraud.

What this means to us

We all operate online these days. For example, we don’t email files to clients. Instead, (with client permission), we upload them to a secure portal where they can be accessed through a password. Under FCA rules, we have to keep client files after they’ve died, just in case of future litigation.

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Name: Lance Baron

Certified Financial Planner (CFP) based in East Sussex, UK. We support people in Southeast England with more than £500K to invest by building a financial plan that will help them live the life they want… until age 100