What happens to your online presence after you die?

04th October 2017

Protect your digital legacy now to reduce stress for loved ones

We recently received a question from a customer about online accounts and what happens in the event of the death of the account holder.

“With so many savings accounts now internet only and with banks that have no high street presence, what happens if the saver dies? How does the representative of the deceased go about gaining access to the funds?”

With regard to savings accounts in particular, the good news is that even if opened online, most savings accounts will leave at least some paper trail, as the customer is usually written to by post when the account is opened. So executors will hopefully come across this, as they would with details of any savings account.

Our Rate Tracker service can also help in keeping a list of all accounts held. On death and subject to a full identification and verification check, we can provide a list to the executors or estate administrators of the accounts that have been added, so that they know the relevant banks and building societies to approach.

Find out more about Rate Tracker and sign up here

It’s a great question and increasingly something more of us will have to deal with when a loved one passes away and so we asked our specialist estate administration partner to see what they advise and here’s their reply.

Online banking, a few shopping accounts, loyalty cards and one or more social media accounts; these are part of everyday life for most people.

Making the most of online services brings us flexibility and convenience when we’re alive, but what happens to all these accounts after we’re gone.

The answer is that unless you leave your passwords and account details for everything you access online, it’s extremely difficult for anyone to do anything after you pass on.

Social media accounts may be deactivated after a certain amount of time without use, but that’s not always the case, allowing people to continue posting and commenting without you there to manage them.

Some online accounts could have a financial value.

Think about any payment systems, such as PayPal, as well as online banking, investments and pensions or insurance.

Loyalty cards and store cards could also contain significant financial assets. Without a list of your accounts, beneficiaries may not even know they exist, meaning they lose out.

In addition, once you are gone, who will have the password and the access details to your digital legacy?

Crucially, access to financial accounts, such as savings accounts, PayPal and loyalty cards, which could contain money, can be very hard without the proper plans in place.

This could see beneficiaries lose out, not to mention the stress of tracking accounts and contacting providers to try and gain access.

Some providers, such as Facebook, allow account holders to appoint legacy contacts, who can manage their profile when they die and create memorialised profiles. This means that a social media page becomes a memorial space for friends and loved ones.

When it comes to accessing accounts with potential financial assets, such as payment providers, executors need to provide legal documentation proving a person’s death and prove their identity as the executor.

The best way to secure your digital legacy is to plan ahead and think about how you would like things handled after you’re gone.

After all, your digital assets are just as important as all your other assets. With a little planning, you could save your beneficiaries a lot of stress and ensure they gain access to the whole of your estate, on and offline.

What should you do now to start protecting your digital legacy?

  • Make a list of everything you access digitally, including film and book accounts, photos and music
  • Make a separate list of the accounts and services you access online, such as savings and bank accounts, social media, shopping accounts, details of your blog and your gaming accounts
  • Update your list regularly to add new accounts or close and remove ones you no longer use
  • Where possible, add a co-owner for accounts, such as websites and blogs
  • Check your social media accounts for their policies in the event of death and you may be able to plan what happens after you’re gone
  • Put your wishes in writing, regarding your online presence, when planning your estate
  • If you put all your wishes on your computer or laptop, don’t forget to tell someone the login details otherwise all that planning will be lost
  • Appoint someone to look after your digital assets, including passwords and instructions

For more information on our Rate Tracker service or for an introduction to our estate administration partner for a free no obligation conversation with an expert, please call us on 0800 011 9705.

Alternatively please download our free Bereavement Guide for more information for you and your family on what to do when a loved one dies.

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