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Take action now to protect your online assets for future generations

On 9 June the Society for Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) launched a campaign, ‘Protect your digital memories for future generations’ aimed at increasing public awareness of the need to make plans for digital assets.

The campaign was launched in response to STEP’s findings in its 2021 report ‘Digital Assets: A call to Action’ – the key finding being that there is a lack of public awareness about what will happen to digital assets on death.  A more recent STEP-commissioned YouGov poll reiterated the need to address this gap in knowledge, as the majority of respondents said that what happens to their sentimental digital possessions after they have gone is either important or very important to them, but 57% have made no plans at all for passing on their digital assets.

The campaign sets out several simple actions that individuals can undertake to protect and pass on their digital assets when they die:

  1. Update your legacy settings on Google, Apple, Facebook and other platforms
    • Google’s legacy tool is Inactive Account Manager and you can:
      • Decide when Google should consider the account inactive;
      • Choose up to ten people to notify if your Google account becomes inactive;
      • Choose which data your trusted contacts get access to, and
      • Decide if your inactive account should be deleted.

If the account holder has not set up Google Inactive Account Manager, the personal representative of the estate may need a court order to obtain the account holder’s data, which can be expensive and difficult to obtain.

  • Apple offers a legacy tool called Legacy Contact that allows a nominated contact access to your Apple account after you have died.

Currently, if a Legacy Contact has not been nominated then no one has access to the account and it will ultimately be deleted after Apple’s retention policy has lapsed due to an unpaid iCloud account. If your loved ones wanted to access your account, they would have to obtain a court order.

  • Facebook offers the account holder three legacy options:
  • Have your account permanently deleted when you die.
  • Memorialise your account and appoint a Legacy Contact. They must have a Facebook account to manage the memorialised account, but the functionality available to them is limited.
  • Set up a new tribute section, where friends and family can share posts on a separate page. This is not yet available in all countries.

The default position is to memorialise the account and if there is no legacy contact appointed, a loved one will need to notify Facebook by completing a ‘Request to Memorialise Form’.

  1. Talk to your family and friends about what you want to happen to your digital assets

Click here for STEP’s guide on how to get started.  While it may feel uncomfortable to bring this up, a conversation now can save our loved ones a lot of stress and heartache in the future.  It could also lead to some immediate actions, such as sharing your photos and videos with your family now.

  1. Share the STEP promotional material to help spread the word and educate more people on the importance of protecting their digital assets for future generations.

Click here to view STEP’s video and share this with any of your friends, family, contacts and clients that may find it valuable.

As well of a lack of public awareness regarding the inheritance of digital assets, STEP’s report also found that many private client lawyers did not feel prepared to assist clients with digital assets and many had no experience of using (and in some cases had not even heard of) the various cloud providers’ pre-planning tools.  This is not the case at Greenwoods! The Wealth Preservation team are all live to the issues that our clients may face in trying to protect and pass on their digital assets.  If you require advice on planning for the inheritance of your digital assets, please contact your usual team member for further advice.

This update is for general purposes and guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should seek legal advice before relying on its content. This update relates to the prevailing circumstances at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments. If you have general queries about our updates, please email: mailinglists@greenwoods.co.uk




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      By completing and submitting this form, you consent to Greenwoods Legal LLP processing your personal data to provide you with the email update services you have selected and any other materials and information about our services that Greenwoods Legal LLP reasonably believes will be of interest to you. You are free to withdraw your consent at any time by emailing mailinglists@greenwoods.co.uk