Leaving a Digital Legacy - The future of the Memorial
Leaving a digital legacy has been thrust upon us in recent years as we begin to realise our lives are becoming ever more controlled by our devices and digital activities, few of us have managed to avoid this and those that have are not going to see this article, sinners.
Lexikin – Our digital archive, online Wills and executor platform is the simplest and cheapest way of managing your digital legacy, leaving wishes for loved ones and carrying out effective estate planning alongside our professional partners.
Gone are the days of simply ‘popping your clogs’ and leaving your dishwasher to your cat, remembered as the odd one in flat B who vacuums at 2am – the legacy of old we can call that. Now we leave behind a wealth of digital assets, yes we really do have assets (even if sitting in a rented studio flat in Chiswick may seem like you are free of assets and responsibilities) along with social profiles full of photos from Daves ‘drink the house dry’ gathering and a Dropbox folder with the pros and cons of living with Felicity – your modern day legacy or as the millennials will one day know it – a digital legacy.
All of this may seem strange for some and far too real (terrifying) for others, but these are the things that we are organically amassing and creating, a digital footprint, as we live our lives online, but what about leaving a digital legacy that you have intentionally created, planned and executed in such a way that should flat B fall on your head right now, will pass on seamlessly to those that matter.
In order to truly understand leaving a digital legacy and what is involved, we should break it up into the two cases we have just discussed, your organic legacy and your planned legacy. The two come together to leave things exactly how you want them when the time finally comes to hang up your coat for the final time.
Your organic digital legacy
Let’s touch on each of the areas that may fall into this category:
- Social media
- Digital assets – itunes etc
- Subscription services
- Digital files, dropbox etc
- (NHS records ) Freedom of information act
Your planned digital legacy
- Family tree
- Online Will
- Funeral plans
Looking after your organic digital legacy & planning what will happen to it when you die
Many of us now spend hours a day on social media and across the various platforms available, some literally live their lives online as much as they do off line. This isn’t always as negative as it sounds, certainly when I first joined Facebook at university back in 2004, it was a unique and fantastic way of keeping in touch with friends that were also away in different cities across the country. This has generally continued as the main reason many of us are still frequent users, although it is unlikely the word ‘majority’ is suitable here as the younger the user, the more social media is part of your life.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, 3 of the most popular platforms, are the main discussion point here as these leave a legacy, leaving your photos, comments, likes, interests and opinions online, searchable, readable and there for others to see and interact with. This includes photos of food, your sausage or leg attempts and the ice bucket challenge you did in your pants, but they may also include some special memories with family and friends,childhood pictures uploaded by a family friend, weddings, birthdays and holidays. These moments are currently captured in time for many of us, in profoundly different ways that have only been possible over the past 10-12 years and make up a new way of remembering someone – a virtual memorial.
‘What happens to my twitter when I die?’ Now we are getting to the point of what your social digital legacy is really about. It is not something we like to think of but it is very relevant to almost all of us now with some interesting things to consider when looking to make a pre-planned decision about a possible virtual memorial.
- Will my family want to keep my social profile active or accessible?
This is always going to be an important topic, social media isn’t going anywhere, but digital legacies are certainly growing in importance. Many families are keeping profiles online in a memorial state, but not active. Once someone passes away, their social accounts can be a lovely place to visit for memories and to still feel close to that person. You can leave access to your accounts in your Will or through your Executor should you want someone to directly access your accounts, along with recommendations on what you would like done with them or simply leave the decision with your loved ones. Facebook also now have a ‘Legacy contact’ feature, which is well worth a look whilst planning. They can contact the social platform and have your account moved into a memorial state, preventing awkward situations where you may be recommended as ‘people you may know’ to possible acquaintances. Take a look at our ‘how to close a facebook account’ for more detailed insight into Facebook and its workings.
This is more for your family and friends than it is for you. Obviously you can choose how to be remembered, but consider those who will survive you.
- Will it affect grieving for my family and friends?
This is an interesting alternative to the above, with some research to back it up. In 1969 Elisabeth Kübler-Ross came up with a theory of experiencing death, the ‘5 stages of grief’. The stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – essentially suggesting that one day, people will get over and cope with loss.
So what does this mean for keeping a social profile public and visible to those looking to cope with the grieving process and ultimately looking to ‘get over’ the feeling of loss? As with memorials in general, times change. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross carried out studies in 1969, a world away from the world we live in now.
Family or friends who regularly check or look at a profile page of a lost loved one may be considered as one who has not completed the grieving process, which is not considered a healthy place to be in. But why should we be required to ‘get over’ loss? As the way we live our lives changes, so does the way we deal with things like death, with digital legacies a huge part of that. As our grandparents visited loved ones at the cemetery, they may not have visited acquaintances or friends whereas our children will grow up mourning more people over time but also remembering them via a virtual memorial.
In essence it really depends on the person who is dealing with grief and what suits them, but times are changing.
Many of our iTunes accounts are full of digital assets that we often overlook as part of our own collection of ‘assets’. When you pay to own a song, album or film on iTunes, they are just as much yours as a cd or DVD would have been, before they became ‘so 1990’s’. So with your hard earned money sitting in an account with Apple, it makes perfect sense to ensure that these files pass on to someone else when you die, else they will likely be lost forever along with cash you spent over your lifetime with one of the worlds’ biggest brands.
So what happens to iTunes when I die? Well this is ultimately down to you and involves planning, part of estate planning just like who gets your house, car and savings. The simplest way to ensure your digital assets pass on to the right people, you can put this in your Will and direct your executor to make sure your wishes are carried out. All that needs to happen is your Apple ID and password pass on to who you have chosen as the beneficiary.
Alternatively the actual files can be stored online or on a physical drive and the details of which should again be in your Will for your executor to carry out. The downside here is if anything should happen to those files, they cannot be downloaded again as they could with access to the Apple account directly.
Ok so some may panic that our private emails may pass on to someone else, with good reason this may not be ideal, but something should be done with the account to effectively shut it down. We do have extensive guides in this area like how to close email when someone dies?
The basics are that your executor should be made aware of the relevant accounts from your Lexikin or from your Will, with directions on how to shut the account down. Most email providers work in the same way and will require your executor contacting the support team and providing some formal evidence of death.
Digital & cloud based files
This is a potentially a huge aspect of our digital legacy due to the way we now live our lives and make use of significant cloud space on a daily basis. Some of you may not realise but if you have an Apple device and an a Apple ID, you likely have 5GB of cloud space that contains backups of your phone, contacts and photos, information that you may wish to pass on.
Others may actively source and make use of specific cloud storage solutions such as Dropbox and Just Cloud, with anything from business documents, photoshop files and shutterstock images, bills and private files, excel and word documents, letters, contracts and even music and films. Most cloud solutions are subscription based, so when you do pop your clogs, all your files may end up deleted once the payments stop coming in.
Your options include taking on the billing and keeping the accounts active or closing the accounts officially and downloading all of the content to a physical drive or computer source. Either way, directions should be left in your Will or on Lexikin for your executor to sort out.
Your organic digital legacy can, and will, grow quite rapidly over time into a rather big collection of assets and accounts that you may not consider when carrying out your estate planning. So although we have termed these as organic in the way they grow, they do require planning in how they are managed and distributed. Take a look at how Lexikin and our digital estate planning tools can make this process a pierce of cake.
Leaving a planned digital legacy and be remembered how you want
We are all part of a family tree, even if it is not down on paper or drawn up as…well a tree, but it can be a lovely way to remember loved ones and educate the family of their ancestors. A family tree can end up being the biggest legacy that you leave and your identity, along with your own spouse, will be forever remembered as part of the family name.
There are various ways of creating a family tree.
- Research and create yourself.
- Use a third party to create for you – Ancestry provide a wonderful platform to create, organise and research your family history.
- Update an existing tree.
With Lexikin you can create your family tree or upload an existing file to be stored and passed on by your executor when you die, this in turn can then be distributed to your family to continue and update as the family grows.
There has definitely been a gap in my life, of let’s say 20 years, between when I made and looked at scrapbooks to now, a time where i barely think of them as a part of my life, weekend activity or as we are discussing, digital legacy. As with much of our discussion so far, social media, Facebook in particular, has changed the way we interact with our photos and memories. When was the last time you held an actual photo rather than a phone that is displaying one? Ye I can’t remember either.
So by taking a trip back to the 80’s, we can actually start to plan a scrapbook that includes our favourite memories, photos and videos, by using the technology and social media presence we have access to on a daily basis. The advantage of this is rather than our digital scrapbook simply being a Facebook profile full to bursting of every sunset, snowy garden and breakfast from the past 5 years, we can literally say ‘this was one of the most special moments of my life – Thailand ’99’ and leave it as part of a virtual scrapbook to pass on to our family.
What could be more special than passing on a simple but incredibly powerful digital scrapbook of each amazing moment in your life, with the images and videos there for future generations to experience. It will bring us to life, when we are long gone, in ways that have never been possible before. What were my great grandparents into? where did they spend their free time? what did they sound like? What an amazing world we now live in to think our future great grandchildren can have a deep insight into each and every one of their recent ancestors.
So where can you create a digital scrapbook and how to do it?
At Lexikin we have created just the tool, to allow not only you, but your friends and family to contribute into a cloud based collection of special and amazing moments from your life. Simply grab your photos from your social accounts, icloud, iphoto etc and upload them to your Lexikin. It’s as easy as that.
With the main feature of Lexikin being the way we pass on you account to your named executor, you also do not need to worry about how your scrapbook creation will pass on if the worst should happen. Get it done early and update as you have new amazing experiences and ensure that your life passes on in the most amazing way.
Creating an online Will
Of course the discussion of your own funeral may not seem to make much sense, especially at work or with the local pub landlord, but when it comes to your family and next of kin, it shouldn’t really be avoided for too long. We can die at any moment after all.
What is the point in funeral planning though?
It’s often about getting the send off you want or feel would suit you, but more than that it can be about taking some of the decision making off your family, at a time when they will mourning and struggling to cope individually and as a group. Knowing what you wanted will give everyone a sense of direction.
The biggest decisions include whether to be buried or cremated? Although there are now many burial alternatives, from space burials to being 3D Printed! Then consider any special requests such as dress code and what guests should wear to a funeral, song choices for your funeral and any religious aspects that you wish to have, you can even choose speakers, readings, hymns and venues. Obviously there are different religious considerations like Muslim burial traditions.
There are now services available online, usually targeting the over 50’s, that enable a form of insurance that will pay for your funeral and take a huge amount of pressure off your loved ones. Using monthly payment plans, you can ensure that all the costs are taken care of when you pass away, so although it may seem morbid to be paying for your own death each month rather than a date night at Pizza Express, it does make sense in the long term. Insurance options may not be the best option for you, for example there are the usual clauses you find with any insurance and it isn’t like a savings account where how much you pay is how much your family get back, so look at the alternatives as well.
- Funeral insurance – cover from companies like LV Insurance
- Funeral saving plans -Asda now offer funeral saving plans & life insurance
- Pre-paid funeral plans – More upfront cost if you have the money available but Co-Op have a product like this.
How much do funerals cost? Well they often cost over £3000, a significant outlay for anyone at a time of high stress and upset, with most of the costs associated being the price of the funeral director. You may not have thought it, but choosing the right funeral director is essential to not only the running of the funeral itself but in the stress and cost associated with the whole process. Amazingly over 50% of the total cost of a funeral can be attributed to the funeral directors alone…
How to choose a funeral director? Well we discuss this at length in our post linked previously, but a starting point is to do some research and if you are planning your own funeral, do this now and make recommendations for your executor carry out when you die, especially if you have life insurance, funeral cover or a specific savings plan to help with the costs. As we have stated above, consider how this will be paid for bearing in mind that funds from your estate are unlikely to have been released to your loved ones.
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