As technology is advancing day by day with most of our time is spent on the internet, there are some crucial matters that are not covered by the law. Although there are data protection laws to keep your private information safe, the law does not provide protection for your ‘digital assets’ after death.
The phrase digital assets have developed due to the continuous digital innovations that have taken over our lives. These are predominantly social media accounts, storage clouds, emails, online shopping accounts, online banking and many more.
We share private information on multiple social media platforms such as birthdays, employment history, pictures, bank details etc. This information holds sentimental and financial value which could be at risk if not managed properly after death. Therefore, as we are more technology oriented, the law fails to keep up with such advancements. Where the law fails, the terms and conditions of the social media platforms prevail, bearing in mind most of these social media platforms are American with policies that reflect US law.
Regarding social media, a family member of the diseased can deactivate/delete the account by sending ID for themselves and the death certificate. However, some social media sites, such as Facebook, have introduced features that allow the next of kin to memorialise the social media profile. Memorialising the account means that the account is kept active for existing friends to view the profile and leave comments, however, the privacy is changed so that people can no longer request to be friends and “remembering” is added next to the name.
Furthermore, the Law Society urges that people include digital assets to their will to avoid complications after death. The most important digital assets are those with a financial value, such as online banking, PayPal, cryptocurrencies and online shopping accounts. These are accounts that you own, and you can secure these in your will, although it may prove to be more difficult than it seems. This is because it is easy for executors to put together assets where there is physical paperwork with the necessary information. However, with online accounts such as online banking, investment accounts, and share trading, it is very difficult to gather enough information because everything is either password secured or simply no one is aware that these accounts exist!
In conclusion, there are steps that can be taken to ensure the safety of your digital assets after death. Here at QualitySolicitors, we would recommend that you provide clear instructions in your will and make a digital asset inventory. This inventory should be updated regularly with information that will help execute the will of the diseased much more efficiently without worrying about passwords and dealing with accounts which no-one knew about.
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This blog is intended to give general information and does not constitute legal advice. Should you require legal advice please contact us.