Most people know where their house, shares or cash will end up when they die because it is in their will. But one thing that is often overlooked in estate planning is how your online presence will be managed in the event of your passing.
Technology has given rise to a whole new world of digital assets.
There has been a shift from people keeping photograph albums, journals and letters – physical assets that can be dealt with easily in a will – to posting and storing photographs digitally, maintaining blogs and email accounts.
Applying succession law to these intangible assets has its challenges as there is still uncertainty around the status of the digital assets as “property”.
These assets can be particularly hard to manage when you consider the average internet user has 26 different accounts and 10 different passwords.
People should pay close attention to their various digital assets when preparing wills and give thought to what they would like to happen to their digital footprint.
It can be difficult to identify the ownership rights of digital assets as they are often stored, created and managed by a third-party.
Most social media and digital platforms’ user agreements do not allow users to own the property in their account.
Many online platforms rest in a foreign jurisdiction; meaning challenging their policies are likely to be even more stressful, expensive and time-consuming.
Fortunately, Facebook and Google allow users to nominate a legacy contact who can access their account in the event of their death.
When developing a digital estate plan, people need to understand who owns the asset, where it’s located and how to access it.
Some practical tips for digital estate planning:
A word of warning: With the exception of the legacy contact process, your loved ones may be in breach of some platforms’ terms of service by accessing your accounts after your death.