How to manage your estate in the digital age

A new digital storage business wants to smooth the path of sorting out your estate, from saving your passwords to sending messages to your loved ones

Simon Stewart’s eureka moment, if you can call it that, came when he lost a large number of documents on a flight back from Australia.

Among them was the personal and irreplaceable account of a recently deceased relative’s emigration to the country many decades before. A priceless thread in the tapestry of his family’s story had unravelled between the armrests or in the overhead locker – and been lost forever.

Once his annoyance had abated, the managing director of Jefferies investment bank got to thinking that there must be a better way in this digital age to store all the important flotsam and jetsam of our lives – the multitude of photos, videos, various passwords and legal documents that now accumulate over the course of the average life.

The result of those musings is Lexikin, a kind of digital vault in which users can store items for posterity. If this initial impetus was sentimental, the end result is practical. Anyone who has ever had to sort out a family member’s estate will know how complicated it can be.

Even the most organised people can leave behind reams of paper and files in assorted boxes and filing cabinets. Invariably, the crucial pieces of information will not be where they are supposed to be.

“When my father died, there were 10 filing cabinets of stuff to go through – it took months,” says Stewart. “With Lexikin, you should be able to find everything you need in a couple of hours.” And it is not just time that the service can save. “I had a friend whose sibling died and they had to pay £12,000 to prove the estate.”

In an ever-more digitised world there are a number of new things to consider. What will happen to your Facebook account when you’re gone? Or your YouTube videos? Or, more importantly, the photographs and files that you have stored in the cloud?

Lexikin is free to use – for as long as you’re alive. Your executor pays a £100 fee to gain access to the account on a user’s death.

Stewart argues that this is relatively small beer when you consider the lawyers’ fees and HMRC fines that could potentially be avoided.

In addition to uploading legal documents and digital passwords, Lexikin provides the facility to leave written or video messages that can be read or viewed after you have died and potentially linked to important milestones for which you won’t be around (like a daughter’s wedding, for example) and update instructions for your children’s guardians.

Facebook logo and computer users

How does Lexikin make money? As well as providing the storage facilities, essentially for free, it introduces users to potential service providers – be they lawyers for drawing up wills or wealth management and insurance providers.

It is entirely up to the user whether they employ these services. But Stewart claims to have negotiated much lower fees for Lexikin’s collective user base than individuals could find on their own.

Users can, for example, get a will drawn up for £195 (£25 of which goes to Lexikin). Stewart says: “Most reputable lawyers will charge in the region of £500. You can get wills for less, but I wouldn’t recommend it.”

Lexikin, which is marking its official launch by sending a coffin into space, is also working with a number of big name charities like Great Ormond Street Hospital and Help for Heroes so that the system can be used to bequeath a legacy from one’s estate.

Lexikin is, essentially, a one-stop shop for shuffling off this mortal coil with your affairs in order. It faces the same difficulty as all estate planning services – getting potential customers to confront their own mortality.

However, Stewart thinks that there is an advantage in providing a more rounded service for the Facebook generation: “I think that people will be attracted to it for the sentimental stuff and then find that it’s a practical service that can save them a lot of money.”

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