Apple has released its iOS 15.2 operating system and the upgrade includes a feature called Digital Legacy – this function allows iPhone users to designate people as Legacy Contacts, and they then have permission to access their account and personal information in the event of their death.
Stephen Moses, managing director of digital estate planning service Zenplans, says this is a ‘great move’ by Apple, and he hopes other large providers will follow suit, but warns that this type of service is only useful if people actually configure the new functionality.
“Now that so much of our personal information is in digital form, it can be really difficult for loved ones to piece everything together when we die, so the more online service providers can do to make it easier for those left behind, the better.
“Given that Apple is one of the most influential brands in the world, the fact that it has decided to include digital legacy in its latest upgrade is really encouraging as it should be a huge incentive for others to follow suit. However, while digital legacy is an increasingly important part of planning, it is so often overlooked, and this function will only add value if people actually use it.
“Google’s Inactive Account Manager and Facebook’s Legacy Contacts have been in place for some time now, but have relatively low take up – possibly because every provider has their own terms that set out what happens to accounts upon the user’s death, meaning users have to configure the appropriate settings for each device or account individually, which can be off putting.”
In its recent report Digital Assets: A Call to Action, STEP discovered that digital assets have become a common part of modern estate planning and estate administration but that only 6% of estate practitioners who had dealt with digital assets agreed there was a ‘straightforward’ way for accessing them, and one of the top issues was ‘a lack of estate planning by the deceased’.
“This is where third party digital solutions can help as they offer a way of securely organising, recording and selectively sharing all of life’s important information in one place, making it easy to manage in life, and easy for loved ones to organise when you die. One of the many functions of Zenplans is a step by step guide on how to configure legacy settings with different providers with reminders to review these on a regular basis. This makes it easy for people to have the appropriate legacy settings in place and maintain over time.”
The STEP research found that 72% of estate planning professionals think their clients should explicitly express their preferences about their digital assets, and of those that were aware of digital legacy planning tools, more than two thirds (69%) said they would advise their clients to use them.