What’s the first thing you think about when planning your Will? At a guess we’d probably say it’s making sure that your property and assets go to those who you love and cherish the most. Most people who go to the trouble of writing a Will do so because they want to leave clear instructions about what should happen after they die.
However, as thorough as people might like to think they’ve been, in an increasingly online age there is one thing they often overlook: their digital legacy. That’s why the Law Society is urging people to leave clear instructions about what should happen to their social media accounts after they die. It argues that too much valuable data and intellectual property is in danger of being lost when we die if proper arrangements aren’t made. So it is urging people to tell the ones they love where you’ve squirrelled away the Bitcoins, and save their passwords for photographs and savings accounts. The alternative, it says, is that they run the risk of all valuable information disappearing into the ether.
So what sort of digital assets is the Law Society referring to?
Well, they mean the following assets that can be accessed or are held online:
- Online Banking.
- Computer Games.
- Personal Blogs.
- Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter etc.
- Professional Directories.
- Online Shopping.
What is the Law Society’s advice for these digital legacies? Well, it says that people should now leave clear instructions about what should happen to their social media, computer games and other online accounts after their death. In other words, people should write Wills that are worthy of the Twenty First century. The Law Society advises that anyone drawing up a Will should leave a list of all their online accounts, such as email, banking, investments and social networking sites. By doing this, it will make it easier for family members to piece together your digital legacy and adhere to your wishes. What’s more it argues that by leaving a clear digital legacy you could ultimately save your family time and money.
Gary Rycroft, a member of the Law Society Wills and Equity Committee, said people should not assume family members know where to look online and to make details of their digital life absolutely clear:
“If you have a Twitter account, your family may want it deactivated and – if you have left clear instructions – it will be easier for your executors to have it closed. If you have an online bank account, your executors will be able to close it down and claim the money on behalf of your estate.”
“This is recognised in the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme Protocol, which recommends completion and maintenance of a Personal Assets Log, including digital assets and consideration of how to ensure that those dealing with the estate will be able to access those assets.”
“This is preferable to leaving a list of passwords or PINs as an executor accessing your account with these details could be committing a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. It is enough to leave a list of online accounts and ensure this is kept current.”
The Law Society president, Nicholas Fluck, added:
“As technology has evolved, so has the way we store information. Simple things such as photographs, which in the past we could have flicked through in a printed album, are now stored online. By making our wishes clear now, it will be easier for loved ones to recover pictures to cherish and will help with the more practical issues such as online bank accounts.”
Harold Stock & Co Solicitors are experts when it comes to drafting wills. If you have not yet made a will or have a will that needs to be updated, why not contact us? We are able to see you at our offices in Failsworth, Stockport or Mossley and can even visit you at home if you are unable to make it to one of our offices.
For more information, take a look at our Wills and Probate page.