8 April 2015

Your digital legacy

By Sieta Autar-Matawlie

Your digital legacy contains all your digital possessions.

These include photos, videos, documents, music, e-mail accounts and your social profiles like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. But what about the accounts of all the webshops you visit or your online banking details?

After the death of a loved one, his or her online life continues. This can create difficult situations for the family, for example receiving an e-mail reminder regarding the birthday of the deceased. It is therefore a good idea to consider what you want to do with the digital legacy of a loved one. Such undesired messaging happens more often than you think. Nearly eight million people in the Netherlands are active on the Internet. I notice that relatives/heirs often have no idea about all the online accounts of their deceased relative.

Virtual life

Have you ever wondered what happens to online accounts and domain names when you die? What happens to your Facebook or Twitter account? And what about your e-mail account or an online shopping credit? And who tells your online friends? How do relatives gain access to your accounts if they don’t know of their existence or passwords?

Many people have a virtual life. If nothing is recorded about what should happen with these accounts after their death, it can be difficult to settle the legacy.

Make arrangements in advance

It is therefore sensible to think about this and make appropriate arrangements. You can make preparations yourself. You can make a list of your accounts, login names and passwords and provide instructions on what to do with them after you die. You can do the same for important files like photos and videos. Keep the list in a safe place and tell a few people where it is. The risk is then that the list can get lost. You can also record your wishes regarding your digital legacy with a solicitor in a will. Or you can appoint a social media executor in your will to ensure that your digital legacy is attended to. You can instruct a social media executor in your will to delete your social media accounts or to convert them into memorial pages. The will is registered with the solicitor at the Central Will Register and the heirs can request and read the will after your death. Problems may arise if you fail to make arrangements for your digital legacy for any reason.


In 2014, I conducted legal proceedings about a digital legacy. During the proceedings, I claimed that a client was authorised to have access to the passwords and user names of the Apple IDs of the deceased who had an Internet company and that my client was legally the owner of the passwords and user names of the Apple IDs and of all the digital information under the name of the deceased. In the same proceedings, I also ordered the counter party to cooperate within two working days of the judgement in recovering and providing the passwords and the Apple IDs and all the digital information of the deceased to my client, under pain of a penalty of € 1,000 a day.

I won the lawsuit for my client and she is now the legal owner of the digital legacy of the deceased and has all the passwords and login codes of the digital accounts belonging to the deceased.

Get expert advice

By making arrangements for your digital legacy, you can avoid having to embark on unnecessary legal proceedings. Please contact Sieta Autar-Matawlie if you have any questions about your digital legacy.

Sieta Autar-Matawlie

Sieta Autar-Matawlie

Lawyer / associate partner / estate planner / executeur

Sieta Autar-Matawlie has extensive experience in the field of inheritance.

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