Have you ever considered what will happen to your assets stored on line in the event of your death? This can include music, films and photos stored online. What about the disposition of online bank accounts, websites and financial data? Many sites like this are password protected and they, quite rightly, make it very difficult for anyone but the account holder to access them.
However, this can create problems for your beneficiaries and executor should you die unexpectedly – unless you make plans in advance.
Many people don’t get round to making a will until they are much older which makes it very complicated for a family to deal with the persons affairs and possessions. A very small percentage of those who have got a will would think to include details such as online passwords within their will, which can make it even more difficult for the family to deal with – for example they may not be able to stop direct debits and standing orders being paid without relevant passwords etc.
Gaining access to a deceased person’s e-mail accounts is at the whim of the account provider. Many may not provide access at all – this was discovered recently in the case of families trying to access the accounts of Iraq war causalities. Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail will provide CD copies of your emails to a relative, providing they can produce a copy of your death certificate and show a power of attorney, but they will not release the password to your account.
So, what can be done? Lee Young, Head of our Wills & Tax Team, suggests you consider the following actions:
- First appraise your digital assets
- Make a list of your accounts on line
- Write down the passwords to each account and store them in a safe place – maybe a safety deposit box with your bank, or with your solicitor (do not do this online)
- List your accounts in your will with a reference to the file where the passwords are kept
Lee continues, saying “Everyone with children or any assets, such as a house, should have a will – no exceptions! As we all spend an increasing amount of time and money on the Internet these days, we are seeing more and more complications of this type when families and executors try to deal with the estate of someone who has died. Making a will, and including access to details of your digital assets too, makes it easier for those trying to deal with the assets of their friend or relative, when they are already going through a very difficult time.”
If you have any questions or would like to chat about setting up safeguards for your ‘online life’ please contact Lee or his team on 01202 499255 or on firstname.lastname@example.org