What happens to your cloud when you die?

Death and digital

What is digital death?

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As technology has evolved, we’re now able to do things we would never have thought possible a decade ago. Take cloud storage for example – being able to store pictures, videos, emails, documents and more remotely to access them anytime and anywhere. 

In terms of storage capacity and the fact we’re less likely to lose our files forever, cloud storage is a great tool as it allows us to keep much more data and we’re less at risk of losing it when we change laptops or phones. 

 But, what about when we die? What happens to our lovely (not so little) cloud then? 

Many of us have hundreds of photos and videos on Facebook but who’s to say that Facebook will even exist in ten years time? Right now, we can’t imagine a world without it, but technology changes so fast there are no guarantees. Plus, when you upload anything to social media platforms you often stop owning the rights to it due to their T&C’s, which means you don’t have control of how it is used. 

Therefore the two best ways of making sure you retain control of your digital data and how it can be passed on are to either store it in an external hard-drive or keep it in a secure platform online, like the Cloud. 

What happens to your cloud when you die?

Who does the data legally belong to when you die?

Up until recently, it’s been fairly easy knowing what you have to pass on when someone dies as it’s all been physical possessions. Nowadays though – with so much of our lives being digital, our assets are winding up there too.  This is where things start to get a little murky. Without something physical to hand over – how do you make sure that your data gets given to the right people? 

Firstly, the items that we may be storing may not actually be ours to keep. If you think of iTunes, Spotify, Kindle books – these items, whilst we have downloaded them – don’t actually belong to us. The price we pay either via a subscription or download is actually to have temporary rights to the song or book, rather than meaning it is ours. 

This means that, when we die – our subscriptions stop which means that anything we’ve bought and/or downloaded isn’t allowed to be passed on to someone else. 

Things like photos and documents however are ours, and as such we can pass them on once we’ve died. 

Who does your data belong to when you die?

What are the difficulties in passing it over?

As it stands, if you were to die without having a digital executor (link to webpage) or digital will in place, your cloud would lie dormant until the company responsible for it (Apple, for example) decides to delete it. If no-one has access to your account and you haven’t stored it somewhere else no-one would be able to get to it or have control over what happens to it. 

The issue that can happen with both of these is one of securities. You wouldn’t want just anyone getting their hand on your data, so first off they’ll need to be password protected or encrypted. 

How then, can you pass your security details on to those who you do want to have access? It is recommended that you don’t put this information in your will. This is because when you die your will becomes a public document and could in theory be accessed by anyone. 

Our suggestion? Appoint yourself a digital executor and send them your details either via two separate emails, or texts (one with the username and one with the password). They will then be able to pass this information to those you’ve given permission to when you die. 

Please be aware that there is always a slight risk involved with passing on passwords. This article here explains some of the risks and gives some advice on how to negate them: https://www.forbes.com/sites/tonybradley/2019/05/02/cybersecurity-experts-share-tips-and-insights-for-world-password-day/#6b34d6245c2e

What are the difficulties in passing it over?

Safeguarding for the future.

With technology still being so young, none of us can really say what it will look like in 5 or 10 years, let alone 50. Whilst cloud storage is a fantastic solution for us now, we need to think about how we can make sure our data is safe and able to be passed on in the future. Given how precious our photos, videos and documents may be – it’s worth taking the time to really think about the best way to make sure we don’t lose them when we die.


Find out more.

We’ve got heaps of information to help you decide what to do with your digital assets when you die. Have a read of some of our bits below:




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