09-07-2018

Online Life = Digital Legacy

We all increasingly live our lives online whether it be through various social media profiles to paperless billing for your gas and electricity account.    When you’re in control, there’s no denying it makes life simple and even if you lose or forget your password, a link will be sent to your email account and within seconds you’re back in control.

It becomes less straightforward when you are no longer in control of your online life, usually through the loss of mental capacity and even death. We have been administering deceased estates for many decades and have noticed over recent years how the role of executors has become even more challenging, particularly where the executor does not already have a detailed financial knowledge of the deceased.   Estates now often include online only bank accounts; PayPal accounts; ownership of domain names; online betting accounts and even cryptocurrency.   The need to keep your online life private can cause huge difficulties for executors, especially if your executors are not experts in online matters.   Similar issues arise for attorneys and court appointed deputies.

Executors have a duty to declare all assets and liabilities and make sure that any Inheritance Tax is paid.     Executors cannot pass on the value of your online assets if they do not know that these even exist.    

We all know that we should not store or share account login details.   So what can you do?   You can keep a hard copy list of these assets and accounts and make sure that a copy is filed with your Will. We advise that you do not include the account log in details in the list, but don’t worry this will be enough information to allow your executors to contact the organisations and deal with the assets.

You also need to consider your photos and videos – many of us have thousands of images and videos stored on our phones, memory cards, laptops and in cloud accounts.   You may not want those close to you to see every single image as this may cause distress, so you should consider how and where you store these and who should have access to them in the future. You can also outline this in your Will.

Many digital assets that you think you own – such as music and video streaming – are not assets you can pass on to someone else – you have a licence to listen to the music but this cannot be passed on to someone else.  

Some social media accounts (such as Facebook) allow you to appoint someone to manage your account after your death or choose to have your account deleted.     It might be worth considering looking at your settings to dictate which you would prefer.

Part of the Will writing process is to carefully think about who your executors should be. Many people choose a loved one but this does put a lot of pressure on them at what is already a time of stress and upset. Choosing professional executors such as a solicitor may be a sensible choice as we can ensure that we locate all of your digital and other assets and follow your wishes in respect of your personal sensitive photos and other information.

For more information on the Will writing process please contact our team in Chesterfield, Mansfield and Sheffield.

(Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels)