What exactly are we leaving behind?

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A couple of days ago, the BBC’s legal correspondent, Clive Coleman, wrote a captivating story about Louise Palmer’s struggle with Facebook to maintain access to her daughter’s social media account. Becky sadly died in 2010 from a brain tumour.

Mother and daughter were very close and when Becky was ill and lost both speech and movement, Louise would log in with her daughter to help Becky stay in touch with her friends.

Louise said that not only was losing a child the worst loss there is, she also became very fearful that other people were going to forget Becky too. Having the ability to go onto Becky’s Facebook page and read what people have put on her wall was comforting for Louise.

However, with regard to Becky’s Facebook account, Mrs Palmer told Mr Coleman: “I’m her mum and this was her Facebook page, and its contents I felt were my legacy. Her online stuff should now be mine to be able to access.”

Facebook did not agree.

Time can be a great healer but, for some, that time can be interminable.

Louise Palmer’s story is not unique. Almost every week a story appears in the press about the difficulty parents have in accessing their deceased children’s social media accounts. Organisations such as Facebook, Twitter and others justifiably have stringent security rules. It’s a new frontier, however, and as a result it’s become something of a legal minefield.

The UK Law Society has strongly advised people to leave a digital legacy after death, and an increasing number of lawyers are becoming very vocal on the same issue.

Yet, it’s one thing to stress the need for a digital legacy, it’s quite another to know just what it is that we may be leaving behind, and exactly what we want others to do with it. Physical property is much easier than digital property to put a value on and that’s one reason we have found for people delaying their digital legacy.

However, when we have pointed out the enormous difficulties loved ones can face trying to unravel their deceased’s digital property, the need becomes much less blurry.

At Planned Departure  we believe we still have a long way to go, but the more media coverage the issue of digital legacies receive, the more aware everyone will be of the need to adequately secure their digital assets.

Author: Planned Departure

Living and working in this digital era, our social media accounts – from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr to the likes of Pinterest – are increasing not only in number but also in volume. Additionally, many of us have domain names registered and libraries of movies, digital music and e-Books that can be of significant value. And let's not forget about Bitcoin and other virtual currencies! For the majority of us, these accounts and digital assets are likely to outlive us. And when we die, it is left up to family members and estate executors to sift through them all. Furthermore, even though they may have all the required passwords necessary for these accounts, many heirs will discover that they have no clear authority to access, or even to manage, the online accounts of their deceased loved ones. With the value of individuals' digital assets globally measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars, planning for the protection of our digital assets has moved to centre stage. It is essential that our online and social media accounts are included as part of the estate planning process. Failure to do so may not only deprive those we leave behind of fond memories and (possibly) a little nest egg, it could also leave us vulnerable to postmortem identity theft if fraudsters get to use our personal details to apply for credit facilities whilst our accounts remain unguarded. Planned Departure resolves these issues. We provide you with the ability not only to protect your digital assets, but also to clearly indicate who can access your online accounts and who should benefit from them. Create piece of mind today by registering with us in one quick and easy process.

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