In an ever-growing digital world, following your death, how might your personal representative(s) access your online accounts and digital assets held; and what problems might they face?
Have you ever wondered how your personal representatives might access online accounts such as photo accounts, social media accounts, balances in PayPal and other online accounts without breaching computer misuse legislation? We all consider how our financial and personal assets should be dealt with on our deaths, but not many people consider their digital assets. Some people might not consider themselves to have digital assets, but our increasing use of the internet to organise, store and/or share our property and affairs means that most of us do have some sort of digital asset and it may be, therefore, that those assets should be considered with our estate planning.
Concerns have been raised that writing down your usernames and passwords for others to access your digital accounts may be committing an offence, but how might a personal representative have knowledge of and access your digital assets? What would happen if you didn’t leave this information, would sentimental assets be lost in the process, would your family ever be able to access these assets again?
Personal representatives and the company that holds the data can face difficulties when accessing a deceased person’s accounts, potentially breaching confidentiality and privacy laws. Accessing someone’s account is an offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 (“CMA 1990”). With this being an issue which is fairly new, digital assets on death is currently being considered by the Law Society of England and Wales and is still a subject of uncertainty.
If you would like to receive guidance on how best to deal with your digital assets in planning for your death whilst the subject is still being considered, please do get in touch.
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