In the U.K., at least one in ten people are now leaving or intend to leave their Internet passwords in their wills, according to a recent survey conducted by Goldsmiths at the University of London. 

The survey, titled Generation Cloud, was conducted on behalf of cloud computing company, Rackspace, and questioned 2,000 Brits, ages 18 and over. It discovered that 11 per cent of Brits have left Internet passwords in their wills or at least plan to do so. People are leaving their passwords to cloud services and sites such as Hotmail, Gmail, Facebook, iCloud, and Flickr to ensure their personal data can be deleted, archived, or monitored after their deaths.

For estate planners, other key findings of the survey include:

  • 30 per cent of Brits have considered digital possessions as a potential digital inheritance;
     
  • The majority of Brits (53.5 per cent) have “treasured possessions” stored online in cloud services. These digital treasures include special videos (such as wedding videos), photos and emails, as well as passwords and valuable documents; and
     
  • Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of Brits estimate that they have digital information such as personal videos, music, books, and photos stored in cloud services worth more than £200 per person, which amounts to at least £2.3 billion across the UK.

While many estate planners may not be keen on advising clients to include Internet passwords (which tend to change routinely and require updating) directly in their wills, the results of the survey are clear – the digital estate planning needs of clients must be addressed. Estate planners should assist clients in understanding the extent of the digital assets they possess and their plan for what should be done with these assets.

For more information on digital estate planning, see our previous blogs and podcasts.

Thanks for reading,

Saman M. Jaffery