What we recognise as our valuable assets constantly changes over time and with more of us spending time online and managing our finances on the web, it has become a necessary importance to ensure our modern-day secrets, including our passwords and accounts, are recorded in our will.
Millions of us now run a handful of online accounts. These include private information from everyday banking and savings to online shopping catalogues, betting and gambling accounts to air miles. Even social media accounts including Twitter and Facebook are recognised as valuable assets to pass on.
All of these require a password, and if you were to die without a will, these online accounts will be lost with you and could result in thousands of pounds in savings accounts, shopping websites or online gambling credit, lost forever.
Online businesses or individuals who rely on the internet to earn a living also need to consider leaving their personal details. If a person is an active eBay seller or buyer for example, failure to pass on their account information could jeopardise live transactions. These could then become a legal liability on the estate, as an order for goods through and payment is demanded.
Companies can vary widely in how they treat online accounts after you pass away, however financial organisations are known to be the easiest to deal with if you do not have the username or password for a deceased relative.
eBay only require a death certificate, but crucially it will close an account or eBay shop on notification, rather than transfer ownership. If it is not notified of the death, any live sales would go through its disputes procedure if not honoured.
Influencing older generations
My worry with adding our digital information within a will, is that older generations may not recognise the value of including their digital information, or could be sceptical of passing on their personal details.
While older generations have long been thought to be slow to embrace the internet, figures from Ofcom show that older people are becoming increasingly confident about saving information online.
How to ensure your online life doesn’t die with you
First make a digital inventory. List all of your assets and include every online account and their details. You should state what your wishes are for each account on your death, this also includes whether you wish nobody to view certain information such as email accounts.
You can also make a digital will which can be included on run alongside your main will. It will set down the names of the executors responsible for gaining access, and, where relevant, shutting down or passing over each account to the heirs.
It’s vital you leave your account details and passwords safe, before transferring the information into your will. Otherwise, your executors will not be able to distribute your online assets and alert organisations to your death.
About the author: Ian Mann is a Partner for Temperley Taylor solicitors, a full service legal company which specialises in supporting individuals and families setting up a will or assisting those who require legal support regarding probate or court of protection. .