This Is A Simple Guide To Understand Your Digital Legacy Assets

By Peter Billingham Digital Death Advisor

I am convinced that the greatest legacy we can leave our children are happy memories: those precious moments so much like pebbles on the beach that are plucked from the white sand and placed in tiny boxes that lay undisturbed on tall shelves until one day they spill out and time repeats itself, with joy and sweet sadness, in the child now an adult.
— Og Mandino

A Simple Guide to Understand Your Digital Legacy Assets

We understand the concept of leaving a legacy. The handing down or passing on something of ours to another after we have died. Traditionally, we had two types of legacies. First, our "life legacy." This is the memories of our lives and is priceless and will remain with our descendants forever. Second, is the financial and "physical legacy" the assets that we own. Now we have a third legacy to consider. Add to that traditional list your "digital legacy" assets. 

What are your digital legacy assets?

Physical V Digital Legacy Assets

For example, a physical asset could be a computer or smartphone. If you were to die, who would you want to have the physical item? This would form part of your physical estate should you die. The most important question could be, who would you want to have access to the digital assets that they hold? Who do you want to have access to your email, your digital photos? Who gets access to a blog that you have been writing or video uploaded to Youtube? While some of these have no monetary value, they could have significant sentimental to your heirs. Not being able to access them can cause terrible heartache for families. 

Your digital legacy assets could have significant financial value. Do you have online betting accounts, Paypal or similar digital payment systems? Do they have reserves of money held in them? Do you bank online, buy shares or have investments you access online? What about the various store or loyalty cards you carry. Do they contain considerable financial value? Who knows about those accounts? There could be a range of issues like commitments made online perhaps for trading in shares that could cause significant problems should you die and no one know about these accounts. 

What steps have you taken to guard these assets? Have you placed a password on your phone or computer? Who knows that password? Without taking specific action, you family could lose or be blocked from accessing these digital legacy assets. 

In an article on a Japanese news site, it told the sad story of a widow locked out of her husband's laptop. Her husband died about a year ago. A meticulous man, he wrote documents while he was still healthy to provide instructions for his funeral, grave and finances after his death. The necessary procedures after his death went smoothly. However, her husband did not leave any notes about what to do with his computer. Without a password, she cannot look at the photos he had accumulated to remember her husband. The addresses of his acquaintances are also on the computer, and she is unsure what to do with it.

Ryoichi Sasaki, a professor at Tokyo Denki University and an expert on information security, said in the article,

“It is important for everyone to organise their digital information for the possibility of unexpected death.”

Take Action On Your Digital Legacy Assets

Simply doing nothing is no longer a responsible action for anyone with any digital assets. It leaves problems, worry and possible financial loss to your dependents and heirs should you die.

Take action now and first list your digital assets: 

  • Online bank accounts or Investments

  • Internet Payment Systems

  • Social Media accounts

  • Cloud storage facilities

  • Photo and video storage

  • Web sites and blogs

  • Loyalty Cards

  • Online gaming/betting accounts

  • Email accounts

  • Amazon Kindle/Itunes accounts or similar

  • Software contracts

The next step will be designing and setting up a digital legacy asset registry and plan. This needs clear instructions on how you want your digital estate managed after you die. We will look at how simple it can be to protect your digital assets after death in future posts. 

During November 2016, I am going to write blogs about different aspects of a digital legacy. Check back to see them and build your knowledge so you can take action on your digital estate. I will collect all the blogs into an EBook which you can download for free at the end of the month. If you would like to be the first to receive this EBook, please confirm your details below.


Death Goes Digital - #digitallegacy