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Digital inheritance

Increasing numbers of adults are passing on a digital inheritance by leaving internet passwords to loved ones in their wills.

About a quarter of adults in the UK have around £200 worth of music, film and video, according to new research, and the total amount passed on through digital inheritance amounts to £2.3bn.

In a recent poll of 2,000 people, one third considered their digital possessions valuable enough to pass on, according to cloud computing company Rackspace, while 11 per cent have already put digital passwords in their wills.

Billions of pounds worth of digital media is stored on sites such as Flickr, Facebook and various email providers. But if passwords are not passed on after death, they won’t be accessible to loved ones.

Rackspace found that 53 per cent of people held “treasured possessions” in these services, including photos, videos and sentimental emails.

Many lawyers realise that the passing on of internet passwords marks a change in inheritance trends and it is often necessary for people to consider asking loved ones to log on for their inheritance.

People have not yet come to grips with the value of these digital possessions and the risk is that they may be lost if the owner dies, or even that their estate may be liable for ongoing subscriptions to online magazines or newspapers, for instance.

By 2020, a third of people are expected to store all music online while a quarter of people polled said that all their photos will be kept online.