Your Will and your Digital Legacy

According to a survey by Goldsmiths at the University of London, one in 10 Britons are leaving their internet passwords in their Wills to make sure that their ‘digital estate’ is not lost after they die.

The study found that more than a quarter of people in the UK have hundreds of pounds worth of digital music and films that they wish to leave to loved ones on their death.

Your digital estate could include:[bulletlist]

  • photographs and home movies saved on your computer or on online accounts such as Flckr and Facebook;
  • music and movies on iTunes;
  • emails, tweets and contacts saved in Outlook, or on online accounts such as Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail or Twitter; and
  • business contacts on LinkedIn.[/bulletlist]

Although it is important to provide as much information to help your Executors to administer your estate, leaving sensitive information in your Will is always to be avoided – once a Grant has been obtained from the Probate Registry a Will is a publicly available document and is a potential source of information for criminals looking to access online accounts.

Your Letter of Wishes

If you would like to provide details of your digital estate to your Executors, we suggest that you first list all of your computer and online accounts, including brief descriptions of the accounts (your Executors may not be as technologically savvy as you are!), your usernames and passwords.

Then, rather than including these details in your Will, we suggest that you write a ‘Letter of Wishes’ to your Executors.

A Letter of Wishes is a non-binding document that is left with your Will to guide your Executors when administering your estate.  A Letter of Wishes is not made public along with the Will and so can contain sensitive information.

A Letter of Wishes does not need to be in legal language, but if you would like us to help you write it, then please let us know.

You should then place the Letter of Wishes in a sealed envelope and place it with your Will.  If we are holding your Will for safekeeping, then please send it to us by registered post, courier or give it to us by hand to make sure that it does not go astray in the post.

Lastly, remember that if you have used your computer to write your Letter of Wishes, that document itself must be password protected to prevent someone else fraudulently obtaining a copy.

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