Are you active on social media? Do you use email accounts often? How about shopping: do you prefer online shopping over visiting physical stores? Do you keep yourself up-to-date with the latest developments in the world through a news app?
If you have answered YES to one (or all) of the above questions, you are not alone. Most of our routines and daily habits have some form of digitization in them – from shopping to dating and much more.
But have you wondered what happens to these accounts after you’re gone? Who will manage them? Even if you share passwords with your loved ones, do you think it is legal for them to access your accounts?
Not many think of including invaluable Digital Assets in their Will or Estate Plans. Did you know that 96.9% of people in the United Kingdom have not made any plans for their digital assets after their death!
It is not easy to add your Digital Assets in your Estate Planning or Will without knowing the legalities and company policies behind it. Some accounts have a ‘no transfer’ policy in their Terms of Service. This means, though it might be an individual’s dying wish for their next-of-kin to handle their accounts, it is not legally acceptable. There have been instances where a deceased account holder’s family members have been accused of ‘hacking’ their loved one’s accounts.
So, how do we safeguard our online accounts and let our family members handle them when we are no longer able to?
Have you heard of the term ‘Digital Estate Planning?’
A Digital Estate Plan is an Estate Plan exclusive to your Digital Assets. Digital Assets are personal properties and records in digital format. This can range from your social media profiles, cloud storage services, email accounts, online shopping accounts to frequent flyer miles and much more.
The various types of Digital Assets one might own include:
- Digital Property such as online-only bank accounts, cryptocurrency and any other form of electronic currency
- Digital Records such as photos, videos and documents stored digitally
- Digital Accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Amazon, etc.
How are Digital Assets transferred after the death of an account holder?
When it comes to handling a Digital Asset, the only major issue that an executor of the deceased person’s estates might face is the access. The executors of the estate will have trouble accessing the deceased account holder’s online accounts if no provisions are made.
Many cryptocurrencies are accessed via virtual wallets which can only be opened through a private key (which is unique to each account holder.) When the deceased user has not made provisions to share this Private Key with their beneficiaries, the cryptocurrency becomes inaccessible.
Similarly, if their social media profiles will be inaccessible if they haven’t given instructions on what must happen to these accounts after their passing.
What’s the law for planning your digital estate in the UK?
The Wills Act 1837 and Administrations of Estates Act 1925 allow you to draft Wills and plan your succession. However, these laws fail to recognize inheritance of Digital Assets.
There is limited clarity about the ownership status of a user’s online account content; who is the rightful owner? The user or the service provider? Not to forget, policies of service providers vary as per the country legislation.
Therefore, the Digital Estate Planning laws in the UK are largely ambiguous. We have a long way to go before any comprehensive laws are built for Digital Legacy Planning in the country.
What can you do about it?
Organizations such as Facebook, Instagram and Google have legacy policies for their account users. One can set their accounts to be memorialized or deleted when they pass away. One can enable this option by checking legacy policies of the respective websites.
- PayPal allows you to close a deceased person’s account.
- Facebook allows you to delete or memorialize or set up a legacy contact for your account.
- Google lets you choose what happens to your account if you were to pass on and even make requests for a deceased person’s account.
Now that you know how your country’s laws govern planning for your Digital Assets, start creating your very own Digital Estate Plan by signing up with Clocr.