Will you have digital liabilities after you die?
Digital liabilities are the payments you make online that carry on after you die. If you enjoyed a Netflix subscription, an Amazon Prime account you kept forgetting to delete after that free sign-up, or a membership to The Times online while you were alive, then you might still be enjoying them while dead. And paying for them. Here’s our guide to digital assets, digital liabilities, and online payments after you die.
What is the difference between digital assets and digital liabilities?
Digital liabilities are the payments you make online, which you might keep on paying after you die. This includes the day-to-day household necessities like direct debits and standing orders for a mortgage, rent, gas, electricity and broadband.
But our lives, interests and entertainment all take place online now, too. It’s easy to forget about all the streaming services you’re currently signed up to, including Sky and Virgin TV packages, Netflix and Amazon Video. There’s no way to catch up on BT Sport when you’re six feet under, unfortunately, but you run the risk of paying for it.
What sorts of things might you be paying for after you die?
We’ve got used to wielding our credit cards in the online shopping world. Your Amazon account hooked up to your Visa seemed like a good idea when you needed a set of screws for your emergency DIY job, but it can get caught up amongst all the other digital receipts.
Here’s a quick list of the kinds of digital liabilities you’ll need to be aware:
1. Reading and news
Does your partner know about your £50 a year online subscription to Motoring News? If not, you should ‘fess up before you die and make sure that money isn’t going down the digital drain. Unless your partner shares your love of reading about fancy cars on an iPad, that is.
2. Streaming subscriptions
Streaming subscriptions are easily forgotten, and in a shared household you might forget who actually pays for them (as your housemates, even while you’re still alive, might repeatedly remind you). If you die and you’re the account owner, you’ll either end the subscription or continue paying.
3. Loyalty schemes
Loyalty schemes are designed to tie you in for a lifetime, and often we become loyal corpses, too. Some loyalty schemes require you to keep paying to receive freebies, discounts and new stuff. Make sure you remember them.
If you’ve been collecting Nectar points since the dawn of time and it’s becoming increasingly clear you’ll never get round to spending them on that Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference tiramisu, you’re probably going to die without reaping the reward.
There’s a membership for everything – it’s as if the maxim that none of us would join a club that would have us as a member were entirely false.
Whether it’s the gym, an art gallery or a football club, memberships are usually paid through a direct debit. You can’t always pass on memberships, so make sure you’re not paying more than you bargained for.
Dying in the 21st century also means leaving behind your stash of cryptocurrencies, your Bitcoin-enabled digital wallets, or you’re vast online stocks empire. If you’re an online trader, whether it’s on eBay or within the crypto-verse, then you might not just owe money but services, too.
How to manage your digital liabilities
Don’t leave it to your family to hunt through old bank statements trying to figure out what you’ve got coming in and going out. Here’s a few points to consider when managing digital liabilities:
- Getting a list together of your monthly standing orders can be useful, both before you die and in preparation for when the time comes. You might compile one clear Google Doc, print it, and store it with your will.
- You might want to get to grips with a bit of digital asset management, in the form of keeping your lists in Cloud storage or shareable file drives. You’ll need to keep a note of the password to this hub, too.
- If you’ve got different passwords for online banking and cryptocurrencies, then crypto wallets and other online security could be an option.
- Get out the pen and paper. Obviously, bits of scrap paper flying about might not be useful to anyone, so make sure it’s safely kept stored, such as with your will.
- Make sure your family knows that they can go into the bank and shut down your account. This might, on the other hand, end shared subscriptions or important household direct debits.
Find out more
For more information about your digital death, and how to plan for it:
- Read our article on your data privacy rights after you die
- Read our article on what happens to your online accounts after you die here
- Get thinking about your death with Farewell Wishes – it’s 5 questions and takes only a minute.