Managing the estate of a deceased relative can be an emotional task. As we increasingly live more of our lives online, tracking and managing assets that also exist digitally further complicates this difficult situation.
The following article was produced by AVG, the anti-virus people, but I thought it was relevant to everyone working in the digital space, and even some potential here for startups to value-add somehow.
To investigate the awareness of and attitudes towards digital legacies, AVG Technologies N.V (NYSE: AVG), the online security company™ for 188 million active users, surveyed nearly 6,000 people over 50 across the world, including 608 in Australia, as part of its latest AVG Digital Diaries research. Eight-three percent of global respondents didn’t know what a digital legacy is, let alone had started thinking about it, compared to 56 percent in Australia.
Today’s 50+ generation will be one of the first to leave behind a significant digital footprint – including social media accounts with posts, tweets, images, videos, online subscriptions, online bank accounts and much more. But how many of us have thought about the information and content we are leaving behind online, or what we want others to do with this ‘digital legacy’ and how that will impact them?
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The research also found:
- 8 percent of Aussie respondents knew what a digital legacy was, but had never given any thought to it (the lowest of all countries and compared to 14 percent globally)
- Only 14 percent of respondents had considered their digital legacy in some way, 6 percent still don’t know what to do about it, 3 percent are worried about how to remove the information about them, 3 percent have instructed their family to take care of it and 1 percent have included instructions in their will.
- When the concept was explained, 1 in 4 (27 percent) admitted concerns about having a digital legacy
- 4 percent of respondents have had to take down a loved one’s online information after their passing.
- Out of these respondents, 46 percent felt that it needed to be done so just got on with it,
- 13 percent felt like it was erasing the person’s lifetime,
- 8 percent wanted to remove it as a part of healing process
- Just 4 percent refused to do it – they wanted it to remain forever.
- 13 percent were not affected by it.
- 4 percent of these respondents experienced a disagreement with their friends/family over the information being taken down.
- Of those who haven’t ever had to take down a loved one’s online information after their passing (96 percent of the sample),
- 43 percent would accept that it would need to be done at some point
- 13 percent would ask someone else to do it (the highest of all countries).
- 18 percent of respondents have learned about a family member’s/friend’s passing on a social website.
- Out of these, 36 percent would have preferred to have been told personally.
- 51 percent felt it was not appropriate to express their grief at a loved one’s passing on social website.
Despite being a difficult topic, digital legacy planning is one that will only gain in importance as our use of online services and networks continues to grow. We believe it is important to start to educate people on what it is and the conversations they should consider having with their loved ones on what their personal wishes would be on how their online assets are managed.
AVG has produced a free downloadable e-book which covers this topic: Dealing with Digital Death. It offers considerations, recommendations, resources and guidance – from how to tackle the sensitive issues around what to do with social media profiles and blogs to creating memorials and practical information on digital estate planning and how to delete retail accounts.