Digital legacy: The most important things at a glance

Our life is becoming more and more digital. We post on Facebook, Instagram & Co., save e-mails on Google and other providers, send and receive Whatsapp and other messenger messages, have user accounts with retailers, insurance companies and more. There are also digital subscriptions, such as Spotify or Amazon Prime, data from fitness trackers and countless others. But what actually happens when we are no more? And how can I ensure during my lifetime that dealing with this data is as easy as possible for my relatives – and that they know exactly what to do in my interest if the worst comes to the worst? We clarify about “digital provision”.

What is digital heritage?

Over 90 percent of Americans over the age of ten are online – and the trend is rising. Each of them leaves digital traces. Partly on their own devices such as the computer at home, the mobile phone or the digital camera. More and more ends up in the cloud and with digital providers: contract data as well as pictures, social media accounts, Netflix subscriptions, e-mail accounts and much more information. All of this exists beyond your own life. Those who regulate their digital estate early and cleverly ensure that the heirs have it as easy as possible after their own death to also manage this estate in the interests of the testator.

The heirs are required

All rights and obligations of the testator pass to the heir or heirs. So also subscriptions and contracts concluded online. After the death of the testator, the heirs must either comply with all contracts once they have been concluded or terminate them as soon as possible. Because even digitally concluded contracts usually do not just end with death. The same applies to all user and email accounts. Unfortunately, this is often more complicated than you think. If the heirs do not have the passwords, the path to deletion can be long. If you want to get access to it, you have to get it with the certificate of inheritance and some time and effort from each individual provider and service. In the end it works – but who wants to expect that from their loved ones in these difficult days of mourning? Those who take precautions in good time make it easier for their loved ones.

Appoint a confidant

The easiest way is to appoint a person of trust who will take care of the digital estate in the event of death. To do this, issue a handwritten power of attorney with date and signature in which you name your digital estate administrator. It is also important to have a list in which you list your accounts with user names and passwords. Deposit them on a password-protected USB stick or another safe place. Now all you have to do is tell your trusted person where he or she can find the stick or list and you have already achieved a lot. If you like, you can regulate your digital estate in a legally secure manner by means of a will. The same applies here: It must be handwritten, clearly formulated and signed. By the way: Google, Facebook and some others offer to specify the person of trust in the settings – for example as a legacy contact on Facebook or via the account inactivity manager on Google.

Commercial Vendors

Wenn Sie keine Vertrauensperson haben oder benennen wollen, finden Sie im Netz auch eine große Auswahl an Anbietern, die versprechen, sich für Sie um den digitalen Nachlass zu kümmern. Wie gut, wie sicher und wie teuer diese auf die Dauer sind, ist leider nicht so einfach zu sagen. Achten Sie vor Abschluss mindestens auf die Kosten und übergeben Sie besser keine Kennwörter. Die Gefahr, dass der Anbieter gehackt und die Daten anderweitig genutzt werden, ist leider real.

Delete and update

Anyone who wants to make things easier for their relatives should view and check their estate from time to time. Are the passwords and accounts still up to date? It is also very important to regularly delete content that you might not want to burden your heirs with after your death. Some photos, chat histories, and email conversations you might want to keep with you. Anyone who deletes regularly is on the safe side here – even after their lifetime.