People should leave clear instructions about what should happen to their social media, computer games and other online accounts after their death, according to the Law Society.
Having a list of all your online accounts, such as email, banking, investments and social networking sites will make it easier for family members to piece together your digital legacy, adhere to your wishes and could save time and money.
Not making your digital legacy clear could mean important or sentimental material – such as photographs on social networks – is never recovered.
Digital assets can also include music, films, email accounts and computer game characters.
Gary Rycroft, a member of the Law Society Wills and Equity Committee, said people should not assume family members know where to look online and to make details of their digital life absolutely clear.
‘If you have a Twitter account, your family may want it deactivated and – if you have left clear instructions – it will be easier for your executors to have it closed. If you have an online bank account, your executors will be able to close it down and claim the money on behalf of your estate.
‘This is recognised in the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme Protocol, which recommends completion and maintenance of a Personal Assets Log, including digital assets and consideration of how to ensure that those dealing with the estate will be able to access those assets.
‘This is preferable to leaving a list of passwords or PINs as an executor accessing your account with these details could be committing a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. It is enough to leave a list of online accounts and ensure this is kept current.’
Law Society president Nicholas Fluck said: “As technology has evolved, so has the way we store information. Simple things such as photographs, which in the past we could have flicked through in a printed album, are now stored online. By making our wishes clear now, it will be easier for loved ones to recover pictures to cherish and will help with the more practical issues such as online bank accounts.”
The Law Society has accredited the first group of law firms to its new Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS).
WIQS is the first recognised quality standard for wills and estate administration in England and Wales.