Protecting your digital legacy when we die

Within our modern world, our online presence is stronger than ever. It is becoming increasingly apparent that we must consider how our digital assets are dealt with after we pass away. Our online profiles include online documents, photos, social media accounts and more, how do we protect these and how can our executors deal with online content? Currently there is no UK law specifically dealing with digital legacies, but you can give the right to access digital 'assets' to beneficiaries in your will.

We believe this issue is becoming more important to us all. The Law is unhelpful. As an example families may have to obtain court orders when their loved one has not specified when they were still alive, what access others should have after their death. In 2019, a woman from London finally won a three-year legal battle with Apple to get access to her late husband's photos and videos, including thousands of pictures of their daughter growing up.

So what does the Law say?

  • There is no Act of Parliament that specifically addresses what happens to your personal data after your death but there are existing legal rules and precedents to navigate when it comes to issues around it. To address the lack of a specific Act, the Digital Devices (Access for Next of Kin) Bill was introduced, but given it's been sitting at the second reading stage since May 2022, it is not likely to become law anytime soon.
  • You can grant the right to access digital assets after you die by naming individuals in your Will, such as executors (the person or persons you want to carry out your will). You could even have 'social media executors' to deal specifically with those accounts. And, as usual with wills, you can choose the beneficiaries (the person or persons who gain something) of any digital assets you have. This is the case whether the assets have actual or just sentimental value. Think about which data you want to go to which person. 
  • Your family or friends should not need to go to court to get access to your digital life when you die as long as you make arrangements before you die – court orders have only been necessary where the deceased hasn't specified what access should be allowed by others when they were still alive.

So we would recommend the following:-

  1. List your digital directory on paper
  2. Back up your most important things (preferably on an external hard drive).
  3. Record decisions via a digital legacy template and we can put this together with your will. (we can provide this)
  4. Note executor/s on platforms that allow it (Apple, Facebook etc.)

It is also important to consider including an instructions within a Lasting Power of Attorney to allow appointed attorneys to have access or not, to your social media accounts, computer, laptop or tablet. Again, there are no strict rules at the moment but it is better to be clear on the subject than leave it in a grey area open to debate. Again, we can assist with the creation of Lasting Powers of Attorney and the inclusion of access to your digital life.

In conclusion, this is a hot topic of discussion at the moment and we believe that consideration should be given to this area of our lives when we consider writing our Wills or Lasting Powers of Attorney.

For more information on creating a Will or Lasting Powers of Attorney please contact Claire-Louise, Wealth Management Executive on or telephone 0208 949 9500.