We all know why we create a will. We use it to protect our assets after we pass on and to ensure our loved ones get exactly what we want them to receive, once we’ve passed on. However, have you considered your “electronic assets” and where they fit in to your will?
The World Wide Web is such an integral part of our lives nowadays. It is hard to imagine life without it. For instance, it almost everyone has at least one log-in to either a social account or a payment service such as PayPal or online banking. So what happens to these assets when the owner is no longer with us?
It is estimated that eleven percent of Brits either plan to or have already arranged for log-in details to their online accounts to be left in their will. You may be wondering why this is so important. Surely the lack of twitter updates from the deceased’s social account is not something that anyone is particularly interested in, nor worth much. But have you considered that their PayPal account, iTunes or even their online banking account is important? You don’t want their financial details to be still be out there and vulnerable to hackers and other internet miscreants.
There may be sentimental reminders or memories of the deceased that may require log-in details. Holiday pictures uploaded onto a Facebook page or an image hosting account may have to be downloaded before they are gone forever. People should also be worried about bills and other online payments. The deceased may have a significant amount of money tied up in a PayPal account or have automatic payments or paperless bills going from their account. Even if you cancel the card, there is a chance that some e-bills may continue to stack up, meaning the family may have to make an unforeseen payment in the future.
It is worth noting that you may not actually own the things that you think you own. Buying music, books or videos from an online store only gives you a license and it is difficult and sometimes impossible to transfer goods over from the deceased. There is yet to be a rule concerning electronic information stored and owned by digital service providers. Because many DSPs are American companies, many solicitors prefer to minimise the expense and hassle of dealing with US law
Generally, the law has yet to catch up with the rapid expansion of this technology. It is relatively easy to get to the deceased’s bank account closed down; providing that you have the proper identification. However, many ISPs make it difficult to access the deceased’s account, although some have guidelines are in place if this becomes a problem.
While you may have a pretty good idea of what your digital assets consist of, your executors will need to know these assets exist, how to get to them, how to deal with them and how, if necessary, to value them. Making and keeping a record of these assets
is a great place to start and the sooner you start, the easier it will be in the future.
As we become more and more comfortable with technology and storing files online, we have to make sure that our online assets are protected and distributed correctly and fairly just like normal physical assets would be.