What Happens To Your 'Online Life' When You Pass Away?
- AuthorSean Boucher
I run an online business, I keep personal and private documents and family photos in the cloud, I own some domain names and I bank online. Some of these accounts may fall by the wayside when I die, but my children will need to access others after my death. How should I deal with this in my Will?
This is a fascinating development in Lifetime Planning and yours is a question I deal with more and more frequently. Traditionally, when writing a Will, you might think about bequeathing your home, savings and personal belongings. But increasingly we are living our lives online, and digital assets are a big part of who we are and what our legacy amounts to. In theory, our digital assets and footprints will live forever.
Digital assets can include social media accounts, websites, cryptocurrencies, online music accounts, online banking, photographs, email and gaming accounts, domain names and other assets. Clearly, we are all security conscious when it comes to our online life, so you may have many passwords for your online assets, and it is sensible to act now to ensure your loved ones can access these in the event of your death, or if you become incapacitated.
It is wise to begin making a list of all of your digital assets, with the associated passwords and access codes, and your answers to security questions. This list should not be included in the body of your Will itself but should be kept with it, as a separate document. This is a sensible approach because you may need to regularly update your list and, since your Will becomes a public document upon your death you wouldn’t want those passwords to enter the public domain.
Within your Will, you will appoint an executor. Think about whether this person would be able to deal with digital assets, or should you appoint a second executor for this purpose? You should also specify which accounts you want to pass on, and to which beneficiary. You may want some accounts to be deleted. You should make this clear too.
Clearly, from a security point of view, you should think carefully about how you store your list of passwords, to make sure they are not accessed by anyone during your lifetime. You may opt to lodge it, alongside your Will, with your Solicitor, but be aware that it should be reviewed regularly, to make sure it is up to date.
JCP’s Lifetime Planning team is on hand for legal support. Call Sean Boucher on 01267 248 986, or: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The question posed is based upon a hypothetical situation.