More and more of our lives are online. And whether it’s on social media or stored behind a password, our thoughts, photos, videos, letters (and that draft of a book we always meant to publish but never did) are no longer stored in an album or a shoe box – they are in the cloud.
These unique personal assets are at risk when you die. A will protects physical things like money, possessions and property, but even if you make a will your digital assets may disappear when you die, unless you take action to preserve them.
The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) is so concerned about this danger it has produced a guide showing how to preserve your digital legacy at www.memories.step.org.
Start by listing what you have got and what you would like to preserve – or wouldn’t. Videos of a baby’s first steps, that last image of grandma before she died, perhaps just a few of your wedding pictures are all must-saves. But there may be old love letters lurking some where, or a diary, that perhaps you would rather didn’t come to light even after your death. So make a list of the device, cloud or social media where they are stored and decide who should have access and how.
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Talk to your partner and your relatives. Find out their plans and tell them yours. It’s important to do this soon: none of us ever knows when it will be too late. Most social media platforms and cloud services have settings where we can specify how our legacy should be dealt with after our death. The STEP website has a guide to a number of them and how to set them. If you don’t take action, your account and all its contents may be inaccessible to your heirs and may be irrevocably deleted by the platform.
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You should tell your heirs what you have done and don’t just do it once; keep your settings up to date as times and relationships do change. It
doesn’t take long but it will ensure your memories and the memories of you will last for ever. Otherwise, your digital life could disappear with you. And that’s like dying twice.
QUESTIONS? Send any questions to Paul.Lewis@radiotimes.com. Paul cannot answer you personally, but will reflect them in his column.