Download free digital legacy form (letter of wishes)

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…”

DigitalAssetsForm  .docx

DigitalAssetsForm  .pdf


A book for seniors on gadgets

The majority of the books on the gadgets we use in our everyday lives are step-by-step how-to-do-it books focusing on a specific device or product, e.g., iPad for Seniors for Dummies. They look very much like printed manuals for a specific gadget. These books serve a valuable purpose for people starting out with a new gadget but they are not fun to read.

In the post Where Have all the Manuals Gone I suggest a different approach which is to write a book that is more like a travel guide than a manual. A travel guide is to inspire you to explore places of interest in a city. The analogous approach for a book on gadgets for seniors would inspire you to explore some of the fun and useful things you can do with the gadgets you use in your everyday lives.

Such a book needs to focus on:

  • what things you can do with gadgets
  • why you might find these things fun or useful
  • how to get started exploring these uses for everyday gadgets

You will not be surprised to learn that I am in the process of writing such a book! If you think this is the sort of book you would find interesting leave a comment listing the things you would like to see covered in it.

Where have all the instruction manuals gone?

The first version of Microsoft Word that I used came with a 300 page book detailing all the things I could do with it. Similarly, the first mobile phone I bought, an Eriksen PF768 that I still have, came with a 50 page instructions booklet. In comparison, the instructions for an iPad I bought 2 years ago just had a single card with a picture of the gadget on one side. As you can see in this picture, the card just had labels indicating where the on/off, volume and home buttons were. The instruction on the other side of the card simply said “To start, turn your iPad by pressing and holding the On/off button for a few seconds. Then follow the onscreen instructions to set up your iPad.”


So why don’t manufacturers provide printed instructions with their gadgets any more? Maybe it is because these gadgets do so much that a printed manual would be massive and costly to produce. It makes much more sense provide “online support” in the form of explanatory web pages and ways of searching for “help”. However, I think that the main reason for not providing a printed manuals is that people simply don’t use them any more.

For most people reading a manual, or for that matter consulting online help, are boring and only to be contemplated if all else fails. I would say that if people regularly need to consult the manual or help pages for a gadget then it’s probably a poorly designed gadget!

A well designed phone app should make it possible to figure out what you do just by tapping around on the touch screen. The designer steers you towards the right guess about what you need to do next and makes sure that if you makes the wrong guess you will know immediately and be able to get back where you were. The same thing applies to websites. A well designed website makes clear on the home page all the things that you can do with it and then leaves you to discover how to do them by “clicking around”. In the world of research that I am involved in, this is called learning by exploration. Learning to use a well designed gadget by exploration can be fun. Think of it as a puzzle rather than a lecture.

What then can printed information do for gadget owners, particularly seniors? The problem is that as gadgets get more and more sophisticated one can get left behind. Learning by exploration is good if you know roughly what you are trying to do and why. If you have never tried a video call using Skype or Facetime it might be difficult to imagine why this would be of value, or to understand the need to register and send invitations to potential contacts. To take an analogy, imagine I wanted to find out about museums I could visit while in London. What I want from a travel guide is information about what museums there are why I should want to visit a particular one and then some basic information on how to get to it. Unless I am a complete stranger to the country, I don’t want detailed step-by-step manual, how to call a cab, how to get into the building and so on.

There is some evidence that manufacturers are beginning to understand this problem. I recently bought an iPhone 4s. It came with a single folded sheet with an unprecedented 13 pictures of iPhone screens (not 1, 13!), each with a few words of introduction, very much in the style of a travel guide.

The book I am writing assumes the reader wants to learn by exploration but needs a guide to what is possible and why it might have value for them. The What, Why and How Guides in this blog give an idea of what this might look like.

Printed manuals are dead, long live the guide!

For an alternative take on this topic see