Digital Inheritance

Date Added 15.10.13

With the increasing popularity of emails, social media, music downloads, online shopping and banking, it is necessary to consider what happens to your ‘digital inheritance’, when you pass away.

Do you know what happens to your iTunes account and your other data that is stored online, when you die? Unfortunately, there is currently no legislation that would regulate what happens to your ‘digital assets’ following your death.  Your executors are left at the mercy of the individual companies and account providers and their policies on dealing with deceased customers and their accounts.

For example, Google’s terms and conditions give their users the option to plan what happens to their account once they passed away. This can include providing access to certain emails to some of your loved ones or, for example, having your account automatically deleted, if there is no activity for a certain number of months.

On the other hand, Yahoo and Facebook will not provide any data to any party other than the original account holder without a formal Court order. This can be very distressing, as your relatives may wish to gain access to your photographs and other personal digital mementos. Is there, therefore, any way of bequeathing all your photos and emails to your loved ones?

You should consider leaving a ‘digital Will’ that contains the details of all your online accounts, including usernames and passwords, together with instructions for your executors what you would wish to happen to the digital content.

Your digital Will should be contained in a separate document from your standard Will, as your normal Will becomes a publicly accessible document, when you die, and thus anybody could gain access to your login details.

Likewise, all executors, when administering an estate, need to consider whether there are any online accounts that need to be dealt with. These can include, for example, online gambling accounts that could contain significant sums of money won by the deceased. Without the knowledge of the existence of such accounts, the beneficiaries could be deprived of the benefit of such funds.

It is therefore important when making a Will that you also consider your digital inheritance and that you update both your standard and digital Will at regular intervals to ensure that they reflect your financial and personal affairs accurately.

If you would like to find out more about any of the above, please contact our Trusts & Estates team on 01604 258 558, who would be happy to have a chat with you regarding your Will.

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