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Life after death in a digital world

 

Article date:  29/05/2015

There's a lot more to being 'dead social' than having a twitter, facebook and Instagram account!

Because in a world dominated by our online presence, leaving clear instructions on what happens to our social media profile after our death has never been more important.

The first Annual Digital Legacy Conference was held in London last weekend, and brought together a range of academics and business professionals to help address areas relating to death and dying in a digitised world.

Ian Bond, a partner in the private client team at Midlands law firm Higgs & Sons, was one of the speakers and said it is important to deal with digital as well as traditional assets when making a will.

"This is a fascinating topic, and one which impacts on almost everyone on the planet," said Ian.

"The law is constantly trying to keep pace with the ever-changing digital landscape and the implications of what happens to an individual's digital portfolio once they have died. The conference explored some of the issues which are becoming ever more important as our reliance on the digital world increases."

Ian spoke on the topic of Digital Estate Planning & UK Law and told delegates that when making a will you should ask yourself some simple questions to know if you need to consider your digital assets: 

  • Do you access any accounts solely via electronic means, for example PayPal?
  • What of sentimental value is stored online or on your computer?
  • Do you own any domain names?
  • Do you access social networking sites and do you have you own personal pages?
  • What e-mail accounts are registered to you?

 "The medical speakers were particularly interesting," added Ian, "explaining how they embrace digital technology and social media when dealing with end of life patients.

"Of the other more unusual topics covered were virtual wakes with webcams streaming live footage onto social media from inside the funeral home, the growing trend for cemetery tours and the posting of selfies on the graves of 'dead famous' occupants."

But, says Ian, there is a serious side to the topic, and appointing the right executor for the job has never been more crucial.

"You need to appoint an executor who knows how to deal with your digital assets."

And he said the key skills to look for were somebody:

  • Committed to following your wishes;
  • Tech savvy and competent in using digital technology in all forms;
  • Highly organised and good with detail;
  • Patient - the process may be all consuming requiring engagement with all sorts of different institutions in different jurisdictions;
  • Trustworthy - would you trust your digital executor with access to all of your computer files, online accounts etc. 

The Digital Legacy Conference was organised by the end of life and digital legacy resource hub, DeadSocial. It was one of a number events taking place as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week. Dying Matters is a national coalition with a strong focus on people talking about dying, death, bereavement and making plans for their end of life.

For help in dealing with your digital assets after your death contact Ian Bond at Higgs & Sons on 01384 327219 or Ian.Bond@higgsandsons.co.uk

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