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Three quarters of UK adults unprepared for life after death online

The growing use of digital channels is creating additional grief for the bereaved, according to a new report.

Commissioned by The Co-operative Funeralcare, the report reveals that while 94% of UK adults hold online accounts, three-quarters have not yet considered or made arrangements for the management of their digital presence when they die.

The findings point to the impact this has on the bereaved, with 78% of those who have managed a loved one’s online accounts following their death reporting difficulties. A fifth of these found it too difficult to manage the process at all.

The difficult decisions facing bereaved family and friends include whether to post the news of their loved one’s demise online, as online contacts steadily replace the traditional address book.

The report revealed that 23% of respondents would like a status update or online post to notify friends and followers that they have passed away, 16% would want their next of kin to have access to their social accounts and 14% want their loved ones to stay in touch with the online contacts.

There are also financial issues. Of the 12% of people who would like to leave their online account details for their loves ones, 67% say it’s to enable loved ones to be able tie up their financial affairs, and 45% want to do this because of their financial value. The findings also highlight that the average UK adult has accumulated personal digital capital such as music, films or books worth £265.

James Antoniou, head of wills for the Co-operative Legal Services, added: “When people are thinking about how they want their assets to be divided, the first thing people usually consider is making a will. However this typically only covers financial assets or physical belongings rather than taking an individual’s digital legacy into account.

“It is important that people are aware that they should never leave online passwords in their will as it can become a public document after death. Individuals can, however, leave details of the online accounts they hold in a sealed letter alongside their will and addressed to their executors to ensure that their digital lives are not missed, or forgotten about, once they have passed away.”

The Co-operative Funeralcare has put together a guide to help consumers plan for manage digital legacies. Go to: www.co-operativefuneralcare.co.uk/help-with-accounts-online

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