Much of our information is now stored online, or in the cloud. If you have ‘opted to go paperless’, you could be saving paper, but you may be creating problems for your loved ones if you die. Will your executors or loved ones know how to find out what accounts you have, where you have money, savings, shares, investments, PayPal or trading accounts? What about your social media and online accounts such as email, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, eBay, music, blogs, photos, etc? If you leave details and passwords somewhere, what about security?
What happens to your online accounts and assets when you die?
This depends on what your online assets are and who they are with. When you set up an account with an online provider, be that a music and entertainment provider like iTunes or a utilities provider like British Gas, you are asked to agree to their ‘User Agreement’ which is captured within their terms and conditions. User agreements are unique to every online provider, but the general principle is that online assets are non-transferrable to another user and sharing passwords breaches the terms and conditions.
Even in the event of a death, online providers will not allow another person access to the account or take it over, but they can take steps (upon receipt of certain information) to close down or deactivate accounts. Many institutions will only communicate with someone who is legally appointed as a personal representative or executor.
How you can help your loved ones in the future?
If you make a will, you can decide who you wish to leave gifts to (cash or treasured items), who will be guardians for your children, and who will receive all or a share of your residue estate (everything you own including property, savings, shares, etc). You appoint an executor to deal with the assessment and distribution of your estate, and this could be a loved one, family member or a professional company such as APS Legal. However, will your executor know what you own, and know how to find it and have access to it?
Leave a trail
Maintain a list of all the organisations that you hold online accounts with including the account number or your client reference number and let someone know where this can be found or keep a copy with your Will for your executors to find.
If you keep your information on a laptop, tablet or phone, you should also consider what will happen with this equipment and how loved ones might be able to access the information you hold on it, if anything were to happen to you. You should never share your usernames or passwords but consider how a loved one might access this information in the future if they needed to.
For more information about what to include in your Will, contact Jenny Fothergill at APS Legal Beverley.