How to deal with your dig­i­tal es­tate:

The Independent on Saturday - - PERSONAL FINANCE - Kezia Tal­bot and Re­may de Kock are le­gal ad­vis­ers at BDO Wealth Ad­vis­ers.

WE LIVE in a time when tech­nol­ogy is at the heart of our ex­is­tence. So­cial me­dia sites such as Face­book, Twit­ter and In­sta­gram dic­tate and cap­ture our lives daily. We ex­pend so much time and en­ergy on these sites, record­ing our ex­pe­ri­ences and post­ing im­ages, that it makes sense to leave in­struc­tions on what should hap­pen to our dig­i­tal as­sets af­ter our death.

On­line es­tate-plan­ning fa­cil­ity Ever­plans de­scribes dig­i­tal as­sets as fol­lows: “Dig­i­tal prop­erty (or dig­i­tal as­sets) can be un­der­stood as any in­for­ma­tion about you, or cre­ated by you, that ex­ists in dig­i­tal form, ei­ther on­line or on an elec­tronic stor­age de­vice, in­clud­ing the in­for­ma­tion nec­es­sary to ac­cess the dig­i­tal as­set. All of your dig­i­tal prop­erty com­prises what is known as your dig­i­tal es­tate.”

The ques­tions are: how do you want your on­line legacy to live on af­ter you die, and what would you like to hap­pen to your dig­i­tal as­sets?

The way to en­sure that your wishes are car­ried out is a so­cial me­dia and dig­i­tal as­sets will, which has two parts. The first part deals with what you would like to hap­pen to your so­cial me­dia legacy and con­tent, and the sec­ond deals with data stored on cloud servers and on your hard­ware.

In South African law, there is no in­her­ent right to pri­vacy af­ter your death. How­ever, bar­ring com­pelling and un­usual cir­cum­stances, or un­less a court or­der is ob­tained, it is the pol­icy of most so­cial me­dia sites and other on­line ser­vice providers not to grant another per­son ac­cess to your ac­count or pro­file, or to pro­vide another per­son with the con­tent con­tained in your ac­count or pro­file, af­ter your death.

If you do not want your on­line legacy to live on, and you don’t want your dig­i­tal con­tent to be shared with any­one af­ter your death, it may tempt­ing not to record these wishes in a so­cial me­dia and dig­i­tal as­sets will. It is nev­er­the­less ad­vis­able to draft such a will, to en­sure that your wishes are ad­hered to and that your per­sonal data is not dis­closed.

De­pend­ing on the type of so­cial me­dia plat­forms and on­line ser­vices you use, there are dif­fer­ent op­tions at the dis­posal of your ex­ecu­tor or fam­ily mem­bers. Some of these are:

• Face­book al­lows your ac­count to be “memo­ri­alised”. This, in essence, means that your Face­book page will re­main ac­tive for friends and fam­ily to visit and post on. The word “Re­mem­ber­ing” will ap­pear be­fore your name. The page will be man­aged by your legacy con­tact, whom you nom­i­nate via a set­ting on Face­book. Your legacy con­tact can­not change any posts, but can write new posts on your pro­file and change your pro­file pic­ture.

The al­ter­na­tive op­tion is for your Face­book ac­count to be closed and deleted. This can be done on re­quest by a fam­ily mem­ber, af­ter proof has been pro­vided to Face­book.

• In­sta­gram, which is owned by Face­book, also al­lows for ei­ther memo­ri­al­i­sa­tion or the clo­sure of your ac­count.

• Twit­ter does not al­low memo­ri­al­i­sa­tion, but will sus­pend your ac­count if it has been in­ac­tive for six months, or will close your ac­count when re­quested to do so by a fam­ily mem­ber af­ter it has been pro­vided with cer­tain doc­u­ments.

• If you have a Ya­hoo! email ac­count, the only op­tion is for a ter­mi­na­tion re­quest to be sent to Ya­hoo!

• If you have Gmail (or another Google-based ac­count), there are two op­tions:

– The In­ac­tive Ac­count Man­ager, whereby, af­ter a pe­riod of in­ac­tiv­ity, your ac­count will be deleted, and the data can be down­loaded by a pre-se­lected trusted con­tact; or

– Your ac­count can be closed on re­quest by a fam­ily mem­ber.

• LinkedIn al­lows only for your ac­count to be closed and your pro­file to be re­moved. Your death can be re­ported by a fam­ily mem­ber or a col­league who iden­ti­fies your pro­file to LinkedIn.

It is clear from the above that the op­tions with re­gard to your con­tin­u­ing legacy are lim­ited, and the pos­si­bil­ity of your fam­ily ac­cess­ing your data is very un­likely, but you should ex­er­cise your rights in this re­gard and stip­u­late what should hap­pen to your ac­counts and data.

If, on the other hand, you want your legacy to con­tinue and your dig­i­tal ex­ecu­tor to be able to ac­cess and down­load your data, you need to nom­i­nate your dig­i­tal ex­ecu­tor as your legacy con­tact and pro­vide him or her with the lo­gin de­tails for the sites or lo­ca­tions where your data is stored. This can be done in your so­cial me­dia and dig­i­tal as­sets will, which will en­sure that your data is pre­served so that it can be trea­sured by fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

Here is some ad­vice when draft­ing your so­cial me­dia will:

• Iden­tify some­one whom you trust to be your dig­i­tal ex­ecu­tor;

• Stip­u­late in your will or let­ter of wishes that your dig­i­tal ex­ecu­tor must be pro­vided with a copy of your death cer­tifi­cate, be­cause it will be re­quired to per­form most ac­tions; and

• Leave your dig­i­tal ex­ecu­tor a list of all the web­sites, along with your user­names and pass­words, that you want your ex­ecu­tor to ac­cess. Re­mem­ber that these de­tails are highly con­fi­den­tial, so this doc­u­ment should be stored in your safe or in a rep­utable dig­i­tal vault with high se­cu­rity stan­dards.

Your on­line legacy and dig­i­tal as­sets may con­tinue to ex­ist long af­ter you die. Set aside some time and give this is­sue the thought it de­serves. You will end up sav­ing your ones a lot of time and ef­fort if you ad­dress these is­sues now.

Kezia Tal­bot

Re­may de Kock

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.