How to leave a tidy digital legacy for your family

Managing someone's digital legacy after they've died is an added nightmare, says Merryn Somerset Webb. Happily, there's now an answer.

Dealing with the financial affairs of the dead is always difficult and miserable. But the internet seems to have made it harder. People no longer just leave a physical legacy they leave a 'digital legacy' too.

That includes eBay and PayPal accounts; music and film collections (you can't usually leave these to people, but they can use them if they are customers of the same company); photo collections stored on websites or in Dropbox or another cloud account; and social media accounts. It also refers to your online bank and shopping accounts. Most people now have all these things. But very few (13%, according to Saga) have a plan as to how they should be dealt with in the event of death.

How do you make such a plan? The Saga website has a form that you can use tolist your accounts, and what you want done with them, says Ruth Emery inThe Sunday Times. You will mostly want them closed, but watch for a new service coming from Facebook, which will allow your profile to be "memorialised". But this digital list isn't something you can do and forget our digital legacies change all the time, so you will need to update it every year. You also need to keep your passwords in a separate document.

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If this is too much like hard work, you might try a new service called Lexikin. It's a free-to-use but very secure service in which you can effectively store your entire life accounts; passwords; will; details of charitable bequests; funeral instructions; a list of where you hold your insurances; Isa, Sipp and any other savings; details of your executors; valuations of your possessions and, perhaps most importantly, photographs, memory books and messages for your family.

On your death your family (whom the site will contact) pays £100 for access to the lot, which should slash the administration involved in probate and the financial pain too (if your belongings are already accurately valued there is less room for inheritance tax error).

The majority of the mass affluent have failed to write a proper will, to insure themselves fully, or to leave the kind of "sentimental vault" that they would probably like their children to have. All of this can be sorted out at Lexikin (they partner with charities, will writers and insurance firms).

My guess is that you are worrying about exactly what I worried about: security. If you are going to input that amount of information, you want to know it is safe. Lexikin's answer? All the information is strictly confidential it isn't shared or sold. It has "industry leaders in online security" constantly testing its systems and it asks everyone to use a two-step verification process with the site. That should, I think, be enough.

Merryn Somerset Webb

Merryn Somerset Webb started her career in Tokyo at public broadcaster NHK before becoming a Japanese equity broker at what was then Warburgs. She went on to work at SBC and UBS without moving from her desk in Kamiyacho (it was the age of mergers).

After five years in Japan she returned to work in the UK at Paribas. This soon became BNP Paribas. Again, no desk move was required. On leaving the City, Merryn helped The Week magazine with its City pages before becoming the launch editor of MoneyWeek in 2000 and taking on columns first in the Sunday Times and then in 2009 in the Financial Times

Twenty years on, MoneyWeek is the best-selling financial magazine in the UK. Merryn was its Editor in Chief until 2022. She is now a senior columnist at Bloomberg and host of the Merryn Talks Money podcast -  but still writes for Moneyweek monthly. 

Merryn is also is a non executive director of two investment trusts – BlackRock Throgmorton, and the Murray Income Investment Trust.