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Digital assets- What happens to our online content after death?

Do you have a personal email account or a social or professional networking profile?  Do you use internet clouds and websites to store or share your photographs?
Have you considered what will happen to your online content when you die?
We live in a world where we store an increasing amount of personal data online and so it has become necessary to consider your online life when putting your affairs in order. While it is unlikely that you will feel attached to everything that you have put on the internet over the course of your life, you may have stored personal photographs and correspondence online that you would like to be saved for posterity. You may have strong feelings about what you would want to happen to your LinkedIn or Facebook account. You may simply want to avoid a situation where your friends and loved ones have to decide what to do with your online profiles and are left in a position where they cannot easily access your content.
Most online account providers have specific policies with regard to who can access an individual’s content and many of these policies extend beyond the user’s death. For example, Facebook have said that they will close a deceased person’s account if asked to do so by a family member or executor. Alternatively it can be requested that the page be ‘memorialised’ so as to restrict who can access it and post messages on it. However, they will not provide login details for a deceased user’s account, resulting in correspondence and photographs being lost. More generally, the rules applied by online account providers may not always be what one would expect and are susceptible to change. For more detailed consideration of some common online service providers’ policies, please click here.
You may decide that the best way to provide for your online life is to write a list of all of your account usernames and passwords and store it in a safe place, tell a trusted (and technologically savvy) member of your family or a close friend where it is and update it as and when required. You could leave instructions with what you would want to happen to each account and even specify that your photographs from your Facebook or email account are downloaded and stored on a memory stick which is then passed to a named person. Click here for more information and here to download a list of accounts that you may wish to use or adapt for your own circumstances.
In addition to leaving a list of your accounts along with access information and details of your wishes, you may want to ask your solicitor to draft a Power of Attorney or Will that contains specific powers relating to your digital assets. If you would like to discuss the best way of providing for the distribution or termination of your online assets when you become incapacitated or die and for advice that is tailored to your circumstances, please contact Ken Robertson.

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