The use of digital platforms such as online banking, Paypal, gaming accounts, Bitcoin accounts, cloud accounts to store photographs, and social media accounts such as Facebook and Instagram continues to grow and is creating a new category of personal property – a ‘digital asset’ which is broadly defined as […]
Sara Cork 24 hours ago Technology/Equipment Do your clients use social media, PayPal or online banking? Mike Jarvis asks how to safeguard digital assets after death One result of living in the computer age is that we have learnt much about paradoxes; remember the promise of the paperless office? […]
Everyone is talking about Pokémon Go but no one is asking the most important question of all – what happens to your Pokémon when you die?
Pokémon Go is a smartphone game which has been downloaded over 7.5 million times and has added £5.4 billion to the value of Nintendo. Until this week, it was only available in the USA, Australia and New Zealand. But as of 13 July 2016 for Android users (and 14 July for iPhone users) it is available in the UK.
The aim is to walk around the real world catching adorable virtual monsters. There are 250 to collect and some, such as the iconic yellow Pikachu, are particularly sought-after. It is therefore possible to build up a desirable collection, arguably on a par with a stamp or coin collection.
In fact, what you could end up with is a valuable “digital asset” which you may wish to pass down to your loved ones on your death.
More and more people are thinking about their digital assets when they make their Will. Some of these assets have financial value, such as PayPal accounts and bitcoins; others have sentimental value, such a photos or emails. There are also issues of privacy and identity theft.
In June 2016, STEP (the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) published new guidance for the public and professionals about digital assets.
So, what should you do to protect your digital legacy?
- Make a list of all your digital assets so that, on your death, the person dealing with your estate knows what they are and where to find them;
- Appoint someone you trust to deal with these assets on your death and make sure they know what you want them to do, for example which assets they should preserve and which they should destroy;
- Make sure that whoever is dealing with your digital assets is able to access them, for example by ensuring they have the passwords; and
- Do your research to make sure you know what the providers of all your digital assets will need your representative to do and make sure you give them clear guidance. Make sure that the language you use to appoint your representative will work for each provider.
When the Centre for Creative and Social Technology at the London University surveyed 2000 adults, they were surprised to learn that 10% of the respondents had mentioned their online passwords in their wills.
The “Cloud Generation” report quotes Steven Thorpe, a partner at the Gardner Thorpe law firm, who says:
Digital inheritance in an area that will become increasingly important given, for instance, the monetary value of music collections and sentimental value of photograph collections. Fewer people now keep hard copies of either, and a very real danger is that the valuable contents of private cloud accounts will simply be lost upon the owner’s death either because the accounts are not known about by others or because access is not possible without the user and password details.
Why do you need a Digital Will?
- To safeguard your online life.
- To ensure that a chosen person has access to them after your death.
- To prevent people with malicious interests from accessing your accounts.
- To ensure that your business, if any, continues or is shared equally by designated people.
Is there any Fixed Age for Making the Digital Will?
No, whether you are 80 years or just 21 years old, if you think whatever you have online is valuable, get the digital will done.
Does every Country Recognize this Will?
No, I am afraid not every country recognizes this digital will yet.
For instance, UK law does not have any provision for this will; however, it does not mean you should take it lightly. Digital wills are important and people are learning about its importance.
Even if your country doesn’t recognize digital wills as a legal entity, you should be prepared for it in advance.
7 Recommended Digital Will Service Providers
I searched a lot online and created this list of digital will developers. All of them are legal entities and entrusted to carry out the creation of digital wills. The list mentions their features. Visit each of these sites and choose one that suits your requirements.
Founded in 2006, Death Switch emails your appointees when it stops hearing from you. The free account allows the company to send one email to the appointee without any attachments while the paid account allows you to add 10 appointees and attachment facility.
The Cirrus Legacy digital will allows you to specify which online properties are to be stored and transferred to successor/s in the event of your death. The free account has no storage facility while the paid options allow storage of digital files and documents.
Founded in 2013, After Note is a combination of digital will and a ‘bucket list’ where you can store information for a maximum of 3 trustees, and create wishes and special messages for loved ones, to be delivered after you die.
Founded in 2010, After Steps is an “all-in-one end-of-life” planning services which includes guiding you with estate planning, financial planning, funeral planning and legacy planning. All the information and documents are stored securely and transferred to beneficiaries.
Founded in 2012, After Words is a method to leave posthumous messages to anyone you want, which is a great way to secure online business properties. You can message people or groups. You have to invite two or more account trustees who will operate and execute your instructions once you are gone. Not only posthumous messages, the service works if you take ill suddenly or due to any disease which renders you immobile to work actively.
Founded in 2009, Best Bequest is an award-winning safe deposit box whose Legacy Vault helps to create roadmaps for trustees or benefactors to follow after you pass away or in instances of natural disasters. You can store keepsake photos, insurance policies, digital will, account passwords, financial information and more. The account is protected with 256-bit AES encryption.
Founded in 2013, Capsoole protects your digital life and legacy through your digital will. It stores your digital information and assets to be shared in case of emergency or your death. The service is fully automated, secure and private.
What does the Digital Will Contain?
The digital will contains all your information like email accounts, social networks, PayPal details, AdSense, stocks and shares, iTunes, Kindle,hosting companies, website designing, databases and others.
Anything that you access with a username and a password needs to be included in the digital will.
You can also store electronic documents like passport, share certificates, birth certificate, marriage certificates, educational certificates and any other document worth storing.
How will the Successor Know?
No matter which digital legacy service provider you choose, make sure that the appointed successor knows about it.
In the event of your death, the appointed successor will contact the digital legacy service provider and start the mandatory rights transfer process.
In fact, I will go on record to state that even before you think of creating an online property, get started with creating a digital will first.
Human fascination with immortality stretches back to the time of Greek mythology with history littered by charlatans, oddballs and megalomaniacs either claiming or seeking the secret to eternal life.
However, the modern tech-savvy generation has discovered, quite by chance, that an immortality of sorts is now freely available via the digital footprint they leave should they meet an untimely end. It’s estimated that on Facebook alone, more than 30 million accounts belong to people who are deceased.
As if the pain of coping with the death of a loved one isn’t difficult enough, friends and family must now consider the implications of the deceased’s online life to go with their material existence.
Your online footprint
Think for a moment about your own digital presence. You’ll almost certainly use online banking and shopping facilities, perhaps an online wallet like PayPal, email accounts, a frequent flyer program, a social media presence via Facebook or Twitter, along with potentially thousands of personal files, receipts and photographs.
Most people already understand the importance of estate planning to help pass on worldly goods such as housing, savings and mementos to their beneficiaries. But how will your heirs even gain access to your computer and your passwords?
Like so many laws relating to the digital world, many are outdated or irrelevant, and several online services have already established their own policies. For instance, Twitter allows family or friends to download a copy of your public tweets and close your account. You need to nominate someone in advance to provide their name and contact details, their relationship to you, your Twitter username and a link to or copy of your obituary.
No laws currently exist in Australia to grant a Will’s executor automatic access to someone’s social media accounts. However, there are still several options available to help decide on how your online legacy is managed.
The first step is to create a Digital Will. In addition, you will need to select a trustworthy digital executor to handle arrangements for your digital assets and digital legacy once you are gone. Similarly, if you run your own business, it will have its own digital incarnation and its own digital legacy to maintain. Some Australian Will makers offer Digital Wills so people can ensure their online legacy lives on – or fades away – in accordance with their wishes.
Online vaults for safe storage
An increasingly popular alternative is to store important documents and passwords in an online vault. The likes of SecureSafe, Legacy Lockboxor Assets in Order pledge to provide secure online storage of passwords and documents.
Password management accounts can be set up using software such as Norton Identity Safe while Google recently introduced a new program called Inactive Account Manager, which enables you to choose in advance exactly what you wish to have done with all your Google data – from Gmail accounts to YouTube videos.
Considering how much of our communication takes place online these days, it’s worth investing some time thinking about your digital footprint and what is required to manage it when you’re gone. A good time to do this might be when next reviewing your Wills and Powers of Attorney. With a little thought and preparation, you can leave a lasting legacy to your loved ones, well beyond photos or videos, and avoid complications associated with your ‘digital immortality’.