Several times a month, I talk to groups about Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney.
As I have been presenting for some time, I am no longer surprised by how many different and sometimes challenging questions I am asked.
What concerns many of the audience is what happens to online shopping accounts such as Amazon or eBay, access to online bank accounts, Facebook accounts, email and photos, after we have gone. Many, like me are members of the Silver Surfers – the more mature members of society who are using the internet, so this is becoming a common issue.
I have been asked a wide range of questions.
- How will my executors know what online accounts I have?
- How will they gain access?
- How can I stop my emails?
- What will happen to my Facebook account?
- Will my family still be able to look at my photos?
- What will happen to the personal information I have provided when I have shopped online?
- How can subscriptions I have taken out online be stopped?
- Can I pass on my online collection of music and films to my family?
The generic term for all of this, is “digital legacy”. Unfortunately, the Law has not moved as quickly as the issues, so it is still very much a grey area. The Law Society recommends the completion of a Personal Assets Log. This is a document which should be completed at the time you make a Will and which should be kept with the Will. The log records a person’s digital accounts and how those who are dealing with the Estate can access them. This digital directory includes information, such as the name of the account e.g. Amazon, the person’s username, password and the website address. As the information is very sensitive, it should be kept safe and secure at all times. The directory should also be updated regularly when new accounts are opened or changed.
Online companies such as Amazon, eBay, Facebook, and Netflix are increasingly aware of the issues and in my experience their customer services departments are very helpful and provide information on how these accounts can be deactivated.
With online bank accounts, these should be closed by the Bank at the same time as a regular bank account, and the Personal Assets Log will ensure that your Executors are aware that you have online accounts. Similarly, requests for online payments from these accounts should also be stopped at the same time, but it is a good idea for your Executors to check that all the paperwork has been processed correctly.
In the case of downloaded films and music, in most cases, you download because you have paid for a licence to do so, and this licence usually dies with you. It is therefore worth checking with the company what happens to your collection on death.
My advice is, whether you are updating your Will or making a Will for the first time; do create a digital directory to be kept alongside your Will, to protect your digital legacy.
Bernard is the Senior Partner at Law firm Linder Myers – www.lindermyers.co.uk or call 0161 837 6854.