Who will claim your digital inheritance

Posted by Andrew Penny in Personal Finance on 11 June 2012 - Andrew is responsible for Quality Assurance at checkmyfile

It was one of United States’ founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, who said ,"In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” While there is nothing you can do about paying your taxes, you can make provisions for your estate for when death comes knocking at the door.

Most people will make a Will before they die leaving their worldly possessions to family, friends or charity. Wills often contain a list of tangible assets that the deceased spent a lifetime collecting, from cash, jewellery, cars, etc. to larger objects like a property. But in these modern times almost everybody now has some sort of online presence to leave behind too.

As online assets are not tangible in the same way a necklace or house are, many people forget about their online life that they share with the world when making their Wills and as a result there can often be a sizable amount of money locked away online in various sites, like PayPal and gambling sites, that no one will ever be able to claim. Also with the advent of e-books and digital music, each person may have hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds in digital downloads to bequeath.

There is not only the financial side of your online persona to consider when you die, there are also many social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr that will still show your information long after your death.

Once you are gone, it is virtually impossible for any family members to gain access to such sites and get any personal information removed or claim and money from these internet sites.

As such, it is now becoming more and more important to leave a list of sites and their login details in any Will you make. Although as it is impractical to update a Will every time you change your passwords, which you should do periodically as a matter of course, a suitable way to store your logon details should the inevitable happen, is to purchase a safe and lock your details away and then bequeath the safe in your Will.

Andrew Penny leads our Software Quality Assurance. He has a degree in Computer Science from the University of Lancaster

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