When someone dies, online providers will not allow another person to access their account or take it over, but they can take steps to close down or deactivate accounts, or pay out assets. Most institutions will only communicate with someone who is legally appointed as a personal representative or executor named in the will.
Have you gone paperless?
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?
Will they even know that you have money, savings, shares, investments, PayPal or trading accounts such as eBay, Bitcoin or non-fungible tokens (NFTs)? 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, is that secure?
Many online accounts are not UK companies (so English law may not apply). When you set up an account with an online provider, be that a music and entertainment provider like iTunes or Spotify, or social media, 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.
How you can help your loved ones in the future?
When you make a Will, you can decide who you wish to leave gifts (cash or treasured items) to, who will be guardians for your children, and who will receive all or a share of everything else that’s left (your residue estate – including property, savings, shares, etc). Your Will can also state who is to receive your digital assets. You appoint an executor (a family member, friend or professional company) to deal with the assessment and distribution of your estate. However, will your executor know what you own, how to find it and will they then have access to it?
A good plan is to leave a trail
Maintain a physical list of all the organisations that you hold online accounts with including the account number or your client reference number (but NOT the password to your online access). Let someone you trust know where this can be found or keep a copy alongside your Will for your executors to find. Remember to update this regularly.
Apple allows you to name a ‘Legacy Contact’ for your Apple ID. Other online providers offer similar options. You can set this up easily and securely with the name of someone you trust. This means that digital items such as photographs stored solely on a mobile phone or tablet can be retrieved.
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 not 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.