What Happens To Digital Assets When You Die? Part II

We have previously referred to the digital assets that now exist in most of our lives, but interestingly a case reached the UK Courts on this very topic, involving a Mrs Thompson, a 44-year-old mother, who’s late husband, from whom she had been estranged, had died a few years earlier having failed to make a will. 

Mrs Thompson had to obtain a Court Order, forcing Apple to allow her access to her husband’s online account, so she could retrieve important family photos, from the photos and videos he had stored online. 

The best thing Mr Thompson could have done, was to leave measures in place to allow Mrs Thompson to access his account, by leaving his passwords and access to email said the solicitor acting on her behalf. 

There is currently no legal definition of legal assets in the UK, but it is taken to include email accounts, social media, and photos stored online, as well as digital documents and online services. 

Digital assets with financial value include online bank accounts, PayPal, shopping accounts and crypto currencies. 

Online assets with ‘social value’ include Linked In, Twitter and Facebook. 

Most people have a digital aspect to their lives, whether it is social media profiles, online banking and shopping accounts, or documents stored in the Cloud, with web-based services such as Google Drive or Drop Box. 

Very few of us have prepared for what will happen to our estate in the event of our passing. 

We recommend that you assemble a list of online accounts, with usernames, store it in a safe place, and share a copy with a family member, or next of kin or indeed your executors. 

In our experience bereaved people can find it hugely frustrating to deal with financial issues, when grieving over the death of a loved one. 

‘Having a list makes it so much quicker and easier for the executors to track down assets after death’. 

Social media accounts should be closed on death, but it is important to ensure that you don’t risk losing valuable documents, photos or other sentimental records. 

It goes without saying, any list made should be updated on a regular basis. 

Organising your Digital Legacy. 

The Digital Legacy Association offers a checklist of anybody wanting to organise their legacies. 

  1. If you have a security password on a mobile phone, or any other electrical device, think about how best to manage your passwords, so that an executor or a loved one can access them after your death.
  2. If you have a social media account such as Facebook, download your photos and videos from the service, and pass them to your next of kin. You may also want to provided administration access to your social media accounts to someone you trust.
  3. If you have online subscriptions or bank accounts, make suitable plans for each.
  4. If you have photos or videos stored on electrical devices, or on a company hosted server, you may want to make a folder of your favourite photos and share them with a friend or family member.

Sharing can be done via the internet service, or by using an external memory stick on a hard drive. 

If you need any assistance please contact us.