People live increasingly complicated lives with a bewildering range of bank accounts, pensions, investments and other assets, and this is making our deaths increasingly complex as well. Life is even more complex for those who are active online, as digital passwords and assets could easily be lost in cyberspace or stolen by ID fraudsters. Unless your loved ones can round up every single saving and investment account, they risk losing tens of thousands of pounds if you die unexpectedly.
“You can’t take it with you when you go” as the old saying goes,” but you can make sure you leave everything in an orderly fashion.
Will MacFarlane, who heads the private wealth team at law firm Royds Withy King, said everyone needs to round up a host of documents, digitalassets and treasured possessions: “This might include your will, a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), birth and marriage certificates, prenuptial agreements, property or trust deeds and contracts, as well as passports,insurance policies, share certificates and your property or investment portfolios.”
Increasingly, people need to look after their digital assets as well, such as online passwords for social media, banking, an investment platform and any cryptocurrency accounts.
MacFarlane suggests making records of physical assets as well,including photographs of artwork, antiques, jewellery, cars and collectables,memorabilia and sentimental items: “Should the unimaginable happen, such as a sudden bereavement, fire or a burglary, everyone needs to know their affairs are in order and they can access the information they need.”
Royds Withy King offers its clients an exclusive Life Safe legacy online “vault” but there are other options.
Jenny Pierce, director at Solicitors for the Elderly and partnerat Wards Solicitors in Bristol, suggested keeping a record with your family’s solicitor: “Discuss with your executors, family and friends how you would like the information to be managed then store it safely and confidentially.”
Deborah Stone, founder of Mature Thinking.co.uk, which advises companies on products and services for older people, said some banks offer a safe deposit box, although there may be an ongoing charge plus a fee to view its contents.
Putting everything into a safe at home is another option, but this may not protect your valuables from fire or burglars. Stone said you should also consider setting up an online digital will or legacy: “This allows you to manage your online presence and assets in one place, including email accounts,website addresses, usernames and passwords, and other relevant information,such as security questions.”
This way your family can get hold of everything it needs when the time comes. Stone added: “You can also make your last wishes known and evenleave documents, photos and messages for your loved ones.”
Stone said do not include digital passwords in your will as this becomes a public document once you have passed away, which anyone can read:“Just refer to an outside document that contains all the necessary information.”
Also, a digital will may not stand up in court. “Only a Last Will and Testament on paper, signed in ink by appropriate witnesses, will be legally recognised,” said Stone.
Websites such as Google, Facebook and Instagram let you appoint a digital heir. Stone added: “Google’s ‘inactive account manager’ feature lets you pick up to 10 trusted contacts who will be notified if your account goes inactive and will be given access to your data.”
Stone said the big problem with key documents is that you may not need them for years, then suddenly have to get your hands on them: “Tracking down lost documents can waste effort and money, at what is already a stressful time.”