The increase in the use of online mediums in our day to day lives coupled with the increasing focus on privacy legislation throughout Australia presents the apt question of – what happens to your digital assets when you die?
Most ‘run of the mill’ digital assets such as online banking accounts and share portfolios will be included in a will maker’s inventory list. Additionally, most major financial institutions will comply with an executor’s directives in the face of valid documentation, but with the ever growing portion of our lives existing in an online space, it can be crucial to deal with and manage those assets before its too late.
Examples of this can be seen where a next of kin or executor under a Will seeks to obtain account information from Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. In those circumstances, that person will invariably encounter a range of restrictions in relation to what information the service provider will release and in what capacity the next of kin/executor can access the deceased’s account. For example, Facebook will allow a next of kin/executor to either delete or ‘memorialize’ the deceased’s account whereas email provider Yahoo will simply close and delete an account once it becomes aware that the user has deceased.
In circumstances where a deceased person has an online account holding a monetary asset such as a PayPal, Bitcoin or even an online betting account, not only is it unlikely that the service provider will provide a third party with the account login details and passwords, but the terms and conditions of those service providers will almost certainly restrict any other person from using that account.
Despite these issues, there are a number of suitable solutions available to reduce the risk of being totally restricted from managing a deceased’s digital assets.
A preliminary solution to this issue can be achieved by keeping an up to date register of all of your online accounts.
Apps such as “Keeper” and “Password Keep” which are available on iPhone and Android can also be useful tools for keeping an online and up to date register of login details and passwords.
The second and most obvious solution is the inclusion of a digital asset clause in your Will and Power of Attorney. That clause can be drafted to direct the executor/attorney to undertake various actions in relation to online accounts in the event of a death. This is a precaution which we advise to all of our client’s making a Will, regardless of the value or number of their digital assets. Not only will this preserve the intentions of the Will maker, but it will also alleviate some of the guaranteed stress in an already emotional time.
If you wish to discuss digital asset management with the team at SLF Lawyers, or any other aspect of planning your estate, feel free to contact Anders Mahoney of our Melbourne office, Margaret Pavey of our Sydney office or Mark Smith of our Brisbane office.