Dealing with a family member or friend’s estate after they have died can often be a complicated process at an already incredibly stressful time.
Digital assets are becoming more integral to our lives and families now find themselves having to deal with digital assets when a loved one dies.
Digital assets are non-physical personal assets. These emcompass a range of on-line accounts including email accounts, Social media (Instagram, Facebook etc.), online payment accounts (Paypal etc.), subscription services (Amazon, Netflicks etc.) and picture and document storage (Google drive, Apple iCloud).
Digital assets owned at the deceased death form part of their estate and it is the duty of the executor to make the necessary investigations to find out if the deceased had any. It can be tricky to find any evidence of the ownership of digital assets but there are ways of tracing if they existed.
Reviewing the deceased bank account can show any payments for subscritpion accounts. It is then worth contacting those companies to see if there are any funds in those accounts. Don’t forget to cancel any Direct Debits as soon as you can.
You will also need to register the death with any social media provider the deceased was using. What happends to the deceased ‘profile’ and it’s content will depend on the particular online company’s terms and conditions. For example, Facebook and Instagram offer a service to ‘memorise’ accounts so family and friends can continue to view the deceased profile without it appearing in public searches. On the other hand, the Apple iCloud storage system has a ‘no right of survivorship’ policy which means their account is non-transferrable and any right to content (photos, documents etc.) is terminated on death.
I am not a lawyer but it might be a good idea to prepare an inventory of your digital assets in your Will and include specific instructions and passwords so that loved ones can gain access without the unnecessary complications.