Preserving your digital legacy: What happens to your MP3s when you die?

With digital download sales booming, Caroline Donnelly finds out how to go about passing on these assets post-death

Despite the huge amounts of time people spend cultivating their digital footprints, very few are taking steps to preserve them at the moment, claims Simon Lewey, a partner at legal firm Cripps Law.

As we inevitably become an increasingly digital society, planning for your virtual afterlife should be something on everyone's to-do list. 

"At the moment, while it wouldn't be right to say the use of digital media is restricted to the under 40s at all, I don't think we're quite at the generation yet [who are most actively using these services] that are actively concerned about dying," Lewey tells IT Pro.

 "Emotional issues like [their family] seeing a Facebook picture after they've died is not really in their contemplation...because the younger you are, the less concerned you are about dying."

The legal costs involved with sorting out your digital estate could also be a barrier, opines Lewey, particularly as its difficult to put a value on how much someone's digital estate is worth.

"I'm not seeing a lot of concerned clients at the moment, and unless they make some reference to it, we're not raising it as a specific issue, not least because a lot of people would say a lot of this stuff doesn't have any real value," Lewey explains. "They might have hundreds of pounds worth of iTunes stuff, or something of that sort, but I'm not going to pay my lawyer a fortune to deal with...something of hypothetical value."

Even so, Saga Legal's Myers says taking steps to preserve your digital legacy is something everyone should think about doing now, regardless of their age.

"The concept of preserving your digital legacy is relatively new and isn't widely known," Myers admits.

"Social media accounts and shopping online are no longer just the preserve of younger generations: tech-savvy over-50s are more common than ever," she adds.

"As we inevitably become an increasingly digital society, planning for your virtual afterlife should be something on everyone's to-do list."

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