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What happens to your digital assets after you pass away?

From social networking to online banking to listening to music and storing photos - we can do everything digitally these days. But do you know what happens to these "digital assets" after you die?

What constitutes a digital asset?

A broad definition could be personal property owned by an individual that is stored in digital form. It is an asset that is online or electronic, and the format can be images, multimedia or textual content files.

Assets can be divided into four groups:

  • Financial: eg bank accounts, shopping accounts and online trading accounts.
  • Sentimental: eg personal letters, emails, texts, photos and videos.
  • Intellectual: eg domain names, websites, blogs and digital art.
  • Social: eg social media accounts and gaming accounts.

Facebook

When you die, friends and family can ‘memorialise’ your Facebook account. Memorialised accounts have the word ‘remembering’ next to your name on your profile and your content shared by you stays on your Facebook page as well as being visible to the audience it was shared with. No-one can log into the memorialised account and dependent on the privacy settings, friends can share memories on your timeline.

A legacy contact is someone who you can choose prior to your death to look after your account if it is memorialised. The legacy contact can accept requests on behalf of the account, change the profile picture and cover photo and pin tribute posts to the profile. If the legacy contact creates an area for tributes, then they can decide who can see and post these tributes.

Another option is to have your account permanently deleted once you pass away.

Google

Google allows you to set up an inactive account manager. You decide upon a length of time for the account to be inactive and after that period expires your nominated person will have access to your account.

Also, you can choose to set your Google account to auto-delete itself three months after contacting your nominated person, allowing time for the person to transfer your data before deletion and stop others from using your account.

Apple iCloud

Apple’s Terms of Use state that your account is non-transferable and that any rights to your Apple ID or content within your account terminate upon your death. Upon receipt of a death certificate your account may be terminated and all content within your account deleted. You may wish to consider backing up all your photos and data to a hard drive on a regular basis.

Twitter

The only option on Twitter in the event of your death is to have the account deactivated.

As you can see, digital assets are important matters to consider; the law is always lagging behind in this ever-changing space.

Article written and contributed by Willans LLP 

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. It is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered above, please speak to Willans LLP  directly

Published on 12th November 2019
(Last updated 13th November 2019)

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