It seems amazing for many that this is even a real issue, but digital life after death is now something we all need to think about. Microsoft estimates that the typical web user may have anywhere up to 25 different online accounts. This includes everything from email accounts, to social media, to banking accounts. Of course these all come with their own usernames, passwords, and a variety of other login details, and we all know how impossible it often seems to keep track of all these details.
Most of us have at least thought about what would happen to our assets, both financial and physical, once we die, and the most responsible amongst us will have some sort of mechanism to deal with this eventuality. This is done typically through a Will. However, not many of us have thought about what would happen to our online presence if we were to pass away. Fortunately, iFacts has done a great deal of research in this arena, and is able to provide excellent advice, as well as a number of solutions, to this problem that appears to be flying under the radar.
Social Media Accounts
Being aware of the issues around your digital footprint subsequent to death is vitally important. With regards to Social Media accounts, in most cases, deceased family members will not automatically gain access to a deceased person’s account, whether this is email, social media, or banking. If you do wish to grant people access to your accounts, an individual needs to make specific provision for this. However, it should be remembered that there are risks involved with this, particularly around giving out passwords to other people, even if you are deceased.
Social Media Policies
For most social media platforms, your account will continue to remain active unless it is specifically deactivated, or the media company is informed. Each company does have their own set of policies, of which the following are worth mentioning:
Twitter – The account can be deactivated by a request from an Executor or verified family member, but a range of supporting documentation will need to be submitted, such as a valid Death Certificate.
Facebook – There are currently two options available on Facebook:
Option 1: Profile can be turned into a ‘Memorial’. The page will then no longer be active, but users can still view its content. This needs to be done via an executor, along with a Death Certificate.
Option 2: Account removal. Again, this is done by completing a form along with supporting documents. There is also now an option to select a ‘legacy contact’. This can be set under ‘security settings’, and will grant an individual access to your profile when you die.
Instagram – The full account can be removed by completing a form, and submitting a Death Certificate.
The Important Message
The important message here, and one that iFacts urges all individuals to take note of, is that your Will should make specific provisions for how your digital accounts should be dealt with. The standard Will document does include details for how financial and physical assets would be dealt with, but individuals must now make provisions for digital concerns.
In terms of actually formulating this section of your Will, there are three distinct areas that potentially require attention:
- Protection of Digital Assets (example: Digital currencies);
- The potential appointment of a Digital Executor; and
- Adding instruction for digital assets in the event of your death.
Online / Digital Financial Concerns
The way in which we bank and manage our bank accounts has changed quite dramatically over the last 10 years. Because of how easy it is to access and manage our banking from a range of digital devices, we now need to think how these accounts will be managed should we pass away.
The Executor does have a range of powers, but these are also limited. In terms of banking and investment accounts, a person’s accounts will be frozen when they pass away, until such a time as the Executor has been appointed. While the Executor will be able to manage and control the frozen accounts, they will never be the owner of these funds.
Individuals should think quite carefully about giving out of any digital banking passwords. Because of the manner in which the Executor is appointed, and the powers they possess, it is in many cases not necessary, and in fact it is not even recommended, that you give any of your online banking digital passwords to anybody, or even list them in a Will. This is of course contrary to some of the advice for other social media accounts.
The Important Message
The message here is that your should list all your financial concerns in your Will, in much the same way it has been done in the past, and that most drafters of Will documents will be familiar with. However, iFacts recommends that this does not include any of your online banking usernames and passwords.