What would you like your relatives to do with your Facebook page when you die? Do you have online banking accounts that the beneficiaries of your will may not find out about?
No one likes to think about dying. At the same time we all know the value of having a will, in order to ensure that our legacy goes to the right people with the minimum fuss and legal costs. Physical assets are easy. You can bequeath objects of financial or sentimental value to your relatives and the executors of your will can easily find those objects in your home. There are probably also physical traces of your bank accounts, printed statements and so on, that provide the account numbers needed to access the money.
Online digital assets are more difficult. Research for Co-operative Funeralcare found that three out of four people surveyed had not made any arrangements for online banking details to be passed on. Almost 80% of those who attempted to manage online bank, utility, shopping and social media accounts following a death said they had experienced problems.
However, it is not all about money. Facebook now has legacy settings that allow a designated “legacy contact” to “memorialize” your account or simply close it if that is your wish. Google has also recently added similar features that allow a “trusted contact” to have access to your account should it become “inactive”.
Read more about this on the BBC News website
The downloadable forms
It is commonplace for solicitors to store a “letter of wishes” along with your will when you deposit it with them. This would normally contain wishes, that are not legally binding, for your funeral service and so on. I recently made a new will and asked my solicitor to store with it a letter of wishes listing my digital assets that I felt were of financial or sentimental value. Furthermore, my solicitors have said they are willing for me to give them updated lists on an annual basis.
You can download the forms I used and modify them for your own use. I have put in some fictional details for an Arthur and Rosemary Munroe as examples of what you might include. If you have suggestions as to how I might modify the forms please leave a comment.
There are actually two forms “Annually updated letter of wishes: financial assets” and “Annually updated letter of wishes: social digital legacy”.
For the financial form I suggest that you do not include passwords on the electronic form in case your computer is hacked. A solicitor armed with your will and a death certificate should be able to access the accounts just using the account number. If you want to record passwords for your beneficiaries the safest thing is to printout the form and write in the relevant details with a pen before you give it to the solicitor.
The Social Digital Legacy form includes a number of items that have little financial or sentimental value at the moment. However, I strongly believe that this will change as new legitimate and fraudulent uses for these social media emerge. Make a list now and update your wishes on an annual basis. Many people store passwords for this sort of thing on their computer in a spreadsheet. This is probably OK, unless you are a celebrity or these passwords give clues about the more important financial passwords. I have simply written in pen on the printout “A written list passwords for these accounts can be found in the study in my…”