Quarter Of Population Want To Pass On Their Digital Assets

The digital revolution has improved our lives in so many ways. It was only 25 years ago that teenagers would listen to the top 40 on radio 1, recording each song on cassette and waiting eagerly to pause the recording in order to avoid the annoying tones of the premature DJ that interrupted the song before it had finished. We now have on demand music, every song at our fingertips, instantly.

Similarly, we can communicate with anybody around the world using social media; all for very little money and with an extremely reliable and efficient service. We have consumed the digital technology offered to us, often placing our entire lives in many social media formats in the process.

This reliance and constant presence in the the digital sphere has caused many debates over what happens to our digital property when we die.

A recent poll by YouGov has emphatically revealed how important our digital presence is to many as over a quarter of people want to pass on their ‘digital inheritance’ to a beneficiary after they have died.

Facebook and other social media platforms are no longer dispensable communication; they now have years of our memories wrapped up in our photographs and 26% of respondents want them passed on to loved ones in the future.

Whilst 7% of our extrovert population would like their social media accounts running indefinitely, 67% would like them deleted upon their death.

Longevity may not have been on the minds of the users and creators of these digital technologies as many terms and conditions fail to consider what happens to digital assets upon the death of the owner. Although many of us may want our digital assets to be passed on, there may be legal restrictions.

Passing on passwords to an executor could violate the terms and conditions of the product if they are accessed by somebody other than the deceased. Many others have stressed that although we may have paid for digital assets they actually remain the property of the company.

Karen Woodison, a partner in wills, trusts and probate at legal firm Blaser Mills, said: “Take iTunes for instance, I spent loads on there way back when. But that isn’t in your possession, it is licensed music so it is not really in your estate.”

As their users begin to age, Facebook have adapted their policies to consider the needs of a deceased user. Facebook now ‘memorialises’ accounts after users die, this then allows an executor to act as a legacy contact who is given limited control and contact of the account.

Whilst the ambiguous nature of ‘digital inheritances’ becomes an increasingly difficult issue to resolve, digital companies will need to consider how they can appease the quarter of the population that demand that their digital property is protected after their death.

Have you encountered inheritance issues concerning digital assets? What should happen in the future as more of our lives enter the cloud? 

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