What’s the matter with our digital inheritance?

Your profiles on social networks, digital accounts, apps, mail, digital content payment documents on the cloud … The increasing use of online services requires us to ask ourselves what will happen to this information when we no longer exist and how we can facilitate the management or cleaning of this digital legacy to our heirs, before it is too late.


New technologies have had a huge impact on the way we interact, manage our day to day and purchase goods and services. We promote a campaign for the user to be aware of the importance in the online security of your accounts and data privacy.

In addition, we are also concerned what will happen to our digital heritage the day we can no longer manage it ourselves. Although there is so far a specific regulation on digital heritage, we tell you some useful instructions for those wishing to leave a digital will or for those who have encountered the problem of having to manage this legacy without any “last will “.


Although so far it has not been very common forecasts about it in wills, nothing stops us stating a last will on our digital heritage. Doing so, we will provide our beneficiaries so much access to that legacy as the correct interpretation of our desires, and the enjoyment of digital goods, whether services or subscriptions to content hosted on the network. There are two ways to take this precaution:

* Transmitting the digital asset with the rest of our rights and obligations via testamentary. Before a Notary, as normal, or even naming an executor who entrusts the work to fulfil faithfully what we have prepared. Now, keep in mind that if you collect a supplementary record all the keys to access the various content and services that we have, the alteration later in our regular use of them and then not update that information, has difficulties. So, perhaps the most practical and safe time to save those keys is to do so in a reliable but accessible location such as a safe, and keep someone informed that they are there.
* Instruct a company specialized in the management of these issues after our death. Companies that offer their services closing social network profiles, email accounts and subscriptions, transferring hosted files on the cloud to heirs or clean our digital trail.


The possibility to access an account after the death of the holder, recover your password, close in response to the last wishes, transfer the information or pass to an heir depends on each platform. As shown in these cases, most have some specificity:

* In life, Apple allows us to copy and unload the purchased contents on paired devices, with the limit of 10 devices or 5 computers. But the right to use content from iTunes or iCloud storage ends with death.
* Twitter has a privacy form through which you can request deactivation of the account of the deceased or access the heirs can download the published tweets.
* While Google provides access to the account of a deceased family member by completing a basic verification procedure, the contents acquired in Google Play cannot be transmitted and the enjoyment while the owner is alive is limited.
* Microsoft offers on its website the “Process Outlook close relatives of service. com”, which makes possible closing the deceased account or messages, attachments and contacts within it.
* The right to use the content purchased from Amazon and downloaded on their devices ends with death.
* In Dropbox, if you do not have access to content through the program folder on the computer of the deceased, you can send a request to the company.

Avoid problems setting up your accounts with advance:
A complementary way to facilitate the transfer is to instruct those services permitted on how we want to act after the death of the owner. Some people leave an appointed digital executor or administrator to operate on our behalf after death. For example, Google has an “Inactive Account Manager” that if during the period by us above (3, 6, 9 or 12 months) no activity is detected, proceeds to delete the account or send data allowing management contents at the address or email addresses that we have specified. One suggestion is to set it up so that loss to send email from a friend or relative who think password also trust our digital heritage.


If we are facing the responsibility of receiving and managing a digital heritage, the view changes. And it does so even more if the deceased has not made any wills. When you have not even pointed the wills, we will act as we think best and decide whether to close or keep the accounts and how we retain or liquidate the legacy. However, if even having given precise instructions has not left us the keys to execute them, we will face an almost detective work to get them. In the absence of a unified regulation, each network and service provides in general terms how they proceed in case of death of the account holder. We have to stick to them to solve any problem. The most common is to provide the death certificate that, once verified, will allow the heir to handle the digital legacy.

Facebook, for example, is a good example, as it gives three options: deleting the profile of the deceased, turning it into a memorial account that keeps photos, videos and other information “in memoriam” or the account becomes administered by the digital legatee. Only in the latter case you will also have to provide a document in which the owner has given us permission.


A somehow difficult matter is to discern what happens to digital content payment (ebooks, applications, etc.) after the death of the buyer. Because it could be that the deceased had expressed the intention to transmit it to the beneficiaries. However, in most cases, beneficiaries cannot legally enjoy them: what it really takes is a right of use that is extinguished with the death of its owner and not its property. In many cases, in fact, the right to share in life with others is not recognized. In addition, many content providers cancel the account as soon as it is notified that the holder is dead, so, also everything else is stored away.

Another potentially controversial case is when in a social network or cloud there is a digital content with intellectual property rights. And these contents can have an economic value if their exploitation is obtained or may obtain income, which should be evaluated by a specialist in this type of intangible property. But it is not only that these assets are part of the heritage.


When conveying how you want your digital heritage to be managed, take note of these tips:

* If you grant a will, include with the rest of your wills, your fingerprint, with information and details necessary for them to be fulfilled.
* Check the terms and condition of the social network, email, cloud services, blog, etc., to see the configuration possibilities and the easiest way for heirs or executor to access your accounts and retrieve your keys.
* Inform someone you trust or your digital executor if there is any place to store your keys (for example, in a safe or in a password manager).
* In any case, think carefully about whether you want those heirs access to your digital accounts. Some may contain documents and information you may prefer to keep private forever. If so, try to ensure that they will be cancelled when you die.