97% of us have made no plans for what will happen to our ‘digital legacy’ when we die

Life after death? 63% use social media and 77% buy online yet just 3% have made plans for their digital legacy

There is no doubt about it, over the past ten years internet use has become part of our day to day lives. More than eight in ten of us use the internet daily; the most popular use is checking and sending emails but more than three quarters shop online, almost two thirds use social media sites and six in ten now use online banking.

However, while we are more than willing to buy online, chat online and share online, the vast majority of us – 97% – have made no plans for what will happen to our ‘digital legacy’ when we die.

“When we write a Will, it will almost certainly include instructions of what will happen to our physical assets such as property, savings and valuables, but is unlikely to say what we want to happen to our digital assets,” explains Graham Jones, commercial director at SunLife.

“In fact, many of us may not even know how many online accounts and assets we have, let alone think to pass on details on how to access them and what to do with them, leaving family members with the stress of trying to piece it all together when we die.”

On its website, The Law Society urges people to leave clear instructions about what should happen to their social media and other online accounts after their death and suggests having a list of all online accounts to make it easier for family to sort out when you’ve gone.

Graham concludes: “If you leave information about online bank accounts, the executors of your Will can close them down and claim the money for your estate. Loved ones will also be able to shut down social media accounts with the right information – Facebook even has a legacy feature where you can nominate a friend or loved one to maintain your social media account when you die.

“But, if you don’t let your family know about your digital legacy, not only will it be difficult for them to work out what’s what, but it could also mean that photos and videos you have posted onto social networks may never be recovered, so it really is worth making sure you have plans in place for your digital legacy.”

Claire Henry MBE, Chief Executive of the Dying Matters coalition adds: “It is ironic that despite our increasing willingness to share all sorts of information about our daily lives on social media, most of us have not thought about what will happen to it all when we die. Many of us are still unwilling to talk about death, but it doesn’t need to be a depressing subject. We want to help people engage with the subject of death and dying in a much more positive and practical way so this Dying Matters Awareness Week (May 8- 14) we are asking people #Whatcanyoudo? We want to encourage people to start thinking about what they can do now to make things easier for loved ones after we have died, and sorting out your digital legacy is a simple and easy one to start with. It’s an important part of making sure you’ve got your affairs in order.”

SunLife supports the Dying Matters #Whatcanyoudo campaign encourages people to take action now to plan for death and dying.

See the SunLife infographic on what information is required to deactivate a user’s account when they die for some of the most popular social media accounts.

You can record your funeral wishes for FREE using the SunLife My Perfect Send-Off link.

Find out more about what to do when someone dies.

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