Who gets your iTunes when you’re dead? How to pass on music collections, Nectar Points and more

Who gets your iTunes when you’re dead? How to pass on music collections, Nectar Points and more

If this was an iTunes library, it could just vanish

We’re splashing increasing amounts of cash on digital products like music, TV shows and films.

The average iTunes user spends $48 (£31.47) every year, according to one estimate. If we did that every year from 2001, when iTunes started, we’d have forked out £440.63.

But while in the past music lovers could pass on their record collection, our digital rights are far less clear.

Emma Myers, from Saga Legal Services, said: “Many people use the internet to download films, music and TV shows.

“What you may not realise is that you are sometimes not paying to own the content in a real sense, more that you are paying for a licence to use it during your lifetime.”

So how DO you preserve your iTunes collection for the next generation?

Thinking of times past

We asked Saga for the rules:

Share your Apple ID

Currently, you cannot get Apple to delete an account. But if your loved ones have access to your Apple ID and password they can edit the personal information.

The family can click here to manage the Apple ID. Once they’ve signed in, they can change the name of the account and the address.

In effect they create a new account and have access to anything the deceased downloaded. Include the personal information of the intended beneficiary to avoid any problems.

They can also contact customer services on 0844 209 0611 or 0800 107 6285.

Dealing with a digital legacy

If someone dies, they can leave behind a large amount of unfinished business online. Some of it will be entirely personal. In other cases there may be sums of money held in online accounts.

Don’t let a sale go unfinished

Send eBay a copy of the death certificate along with the deceased member’s username, e-mail address, full name, full address, and contact phone number.

eBay also ask for a record of the person making the account closure request. This could be a copy of a driving licence of passport.

Once eBay receives this information, they will close the account and write off any outstanding fees. The account can only be closed when the balance is £0.

Only got Nectar Points? Probably not the favourite child

To inherit Nectar points, the legal heir or executor must call 0344 811 0811 with the deceased’s name and date of birth.

If the balance stands at more than 40,000 points, written confirmation from the executor of the Will must be provided, by post to: Freepost RRXL-TGET-CGZX, Nectar, Clipper Boulevard, Dartford, DA2 6QB.

gambling machine
Don’t gamble with your legacy

Send a copy of the death certificate to kyc@betfair.com along with the deceased’s name. The next of kin will receive any remaining funds in the account.

Send the deceased;’s death certificate and information to support@paddypower.com. Ask that the outstanding balance be returned to the estate.

E-mail customerhelp@williamhill.co.uk with a copy of the death certificate and proof that the person claiming the funds is related to the deceased. For example show the same surname, or a birth or marriage certificate.

Customer services will close the account and transfer the remaining balance.

Oyster card
The ticket to untold riches?

Send the Oyster card number and a copy of the death certificate to enquiry.tube@tfl.gov.uk.

To close the account, the estate executor should fax the following to 0870 730 3194:

  • A cover sheet that states the account holder is deceased and the executor wants to close the
  • PayPal account
  • A copy of the death certificate for the account holder
  • A copy of the deceased account holder’s Will or legal documentation that provides the information regarding the executor
  • A letter stating the intentions, for example: changing the name of the account holder, closing the account
  • A copy of a photo ID of the executor

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Protect Digital Assets After Your Death

Protect Digital Assets After Your Death

Let’s face it: Your e-mail account, Facebook page and online photo albums are likely to outlive you. Deciding how to manage your digital legacy just may be your trickiest estate-planning task.

As people increasingly live—and die—online, family members and estate executors are left to sift through e-mail messages, Facebook status updates, blog posts, tweets and other digital remains that may have significant financial or personal value. And even if they have all the required passwords, many heirs will find they have no clear authority to access or manage the online accounts of the deceased. A confusing and sometimes contradictory snarl of online user agreements and state and federal laws can restrict Internet users’ ability to transfer their online accounts to loved ones after their death and prevent families from retrieving information stored in the digital realm.

Despite the devilish details, it’s essential to include online accounts in the estate-planning process. Failure to plan ahead may prevent loved ones from recovering family photos or videos or settling your final bills. It also could leave your estate vulnerable to post-mortem identity theft, if fraudsters decide to apply for credit cards in your name while nobody’s watching your accounts.

What’s more, a library of digital music or an Internet domain name that you own may have financial value that’s significant to your estate. The domain name HotelsGuide.com, for example, recently sold for $60,000, according to domain-name marketplace Sedo. “We shouldn’t dismiss our digital assets as insignificant or unimportant,” says Evan Carroll, co-author of Your Digital Afterlife (New Riders, $25). “The things that may seem ephemeral to us are very valuable to heirs once we’re gone.”


The value of these assets can go far beyond the financial worth in the wake of a loved one’s death. After her brother died in 2011, Melinda Miller quickly had his Facebook account “memorialized,” meaning friends can still post messages on his page, but no one can log in to the account. “That first six months, I didn’t know if my parents were going to recover” from the loss, says Miller, 41, an elementary school principal in Springfield, Mo. But as friends have continued to post photos, songs and holiday greetings on her brother’s page, “it’s very comforting to the family to see the messages continue,” she says. “It’s like a memory wall.”

The first step for seniors starting to navigate this new world of digital estate planning is to recognize the obstacles they face. Each online service provider has its own terms of service—the legal mumbo-jumbo you click through when you open your account—and those terms often say that you can’t transfer your account or hand off your password to anyone else. Those restrictions pose a challenge for heirs who might want to access your e-mail account, for example, to retrieve bills and other documents.

Providers differ on how they handle the accounts of deceased users, but some are starting to help users plan their digital afterlife. The Yahoo terms of service, for example, say that “any rights to your Yahoo! ID or contents within your account terminate upon your death,” and accounts may be deleted if a death certificate is submitted. Google in April introduced a new feature allowing users to specify that after a certain period of inactivity their account data should be deleted or passed along to specific individuals. At Facebook, relatives may be able to request the contents of the account—a lengthy process involving a court order—or ask that the page be deleted.

Federal laws present another hurdle. If you use your late mother’s password to log on to her account, you may violate not only the provider’s terms of service but also the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which governs certain unauthorized access to computers. And a federal privacy law, the Stored Communications Act, can limit providers’ ability to share deceased users’ account contents with relatives.

More on Estate Planning »

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A handful of states, meanwhile, have passed laws attempting to clarify executors’ power to manage a deceased person’s digital assets. But given the variations in the state laws, federal laws and technology companies’ terms of service, some legal experts say such legislation has done little to remedy the confusion. “It is a very unsettled area” of law, says Gerry Beyer, law professor at Texas Tech University. The Uniform Law Commission, which helps standardize state laws across the U.S. by drafting model legislation, currently has a committee working on the issue.

Some accounts that you access online don’t pose much of an estate-planning challenge. Because financial institutions have clear procedures for handling an account holder’s death, it’s relatively straightforward for executors to arrange for the transfer of assets to beneficiaries, estate planners say.

Protecting Your Digital Afterlife

Although many other online accounts remain in a legal fog, seniors who take a few simple steps now can greatly increase the odds that their online afterlife will be handled according to their wishes.

First, take inventory of all your online accounts, including e-mail, social networks, blogging sites, photo-sharing sites, frequent-flier accounts, shopping sites such as Amazon.com, credit card accounts, and online bill-payment accounts, such as those established with utilities. For each account, list log-in and password information as well as answers to “secret” questions.


The security of such a list is a critical question. One solution: Use a password-management system such as LastPass.com or 1Password (www.agilebits.com). These services will encrypt your log-in and password information and keep it stored on your own computer. You’ll have a master password to unlock the data, so it’s easy to retrieve and update password information. Another option: Save the list in a password-protected document on your computer. Don’t put any password information in your will, which becomes a public document.

When you’ve completed your inventory, write down where you’ve stored the information and the master password needed to access it. Put that information in your safe deposit box or in your attorney’s vault. Seniors creating a power of attorney document should also include specific language authorizing their agents to deal with their digital assets, Beyer says.

Next, consider signing a statement, which can be drafted by an estate-planning lawyer, authorizing the companies that hold your online information to disclose that information to your executor or other representative, says James Lamm, estate-planning attorney at Gray Plant Mooty, in Minneapolis. The authorization may be included in your will. That way, your executor can request a copy of the contents of your online accounts, rather than trying to access the account directly—and possibly running afoul of the terms of service or federal law, Lamm says. “That should work, but I can’t guarantee it,” he says. “That’s as good as we can get under current law.”

Seniors may be able to avoid sticky legal questions by downloading their online account information to a home computer. Some tech companies are making this process easier. Facebook, for example, allows users to get a copy of all of their correspondence with friends, photos and other account content in a single download. A service called Backupify (www.backupify.com) will also help download content from Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and other personal accounts.

A cottage industry of online data-management companies has begun selling services that claim to transfer your digital assets to your beneficiaries. One such service is offered by SecureSafe, launched in 2009 by Zurich-based online storage company DSwiss. It has already signed up more than 300,000 individuals and is adding roughly 10,000 new customers a week, says spokesman Andreas Jacob. But legal experts say such services don’t resolve the potential conflicts with online providers’ terms of service or federal laws. SecureSafe’s terms of service say that users must comply with the laws of their own country, Jacob says.

Even when family members have shared all their passwords with each other, managing online accounts can be difficult. Karen Marcus, 39, of Richmond, Va., had all of her husband’s passwords when he died in 2010, but she didn’t have all of the log-in IDs he used for online bill payments. She tried to convert the online bills back to paper statements, which wasn’t an easy process. Her electricity was turned off, she says, after the power company was slow to send her the paper bill that she had requested. But when dealing with such a loss, she says, “you don’t know what day it is, what time it is. And you want to make things as simple, as tactile, as possible.”

More on Estate Planning »



When You Die, Who Can Read Your Email?

When You Die, Who Can Read Your Email?

A controversial new state law is making it easier for estate executors to access digital data—such as email, photos and social-media postings—after the account holder dies.

Many Internet companies strictly limit access to their customers’ accounts to the account holder, in accordance, they say, with federal privacy law. When an account holder dies, estate executors typically have to seek a court order to access the account, which can be expensive and time consuming—sometimes taking half a year or more—and isn’t always successful.

But under a Delaware law passed last summer, executors can now access online accounts without a court order, unless the deceased has instructed otherwise. Similar legislation is under consideration in several other states.

That’s an encouraging development to people like Andy Blair, an estate lawyer in Raleigh, N.C., who says his parents have thousands of family photos stored online. “Without a law like this,” he says, “I may never get access to those” after his parents die. But a group of Internet firmsopposed the Delaware law, saying that it violates consumer privacy and may conflict with existing federal privacy law.

Beyond Delaware

The new Delaware law also gives access to those serving as agents for the deceased under a power of attorney, as well as court-appointed guardians for those who are incapacitated, and to others serving in a fiduciary role.

The law could affect people beyond Delaware’s borders. Although its population is small, Delaware’s generous trust and tax laws make it a popular place for people across the country to locate trusts, particularly among wealthy families. Individuals can have a Delaware trust even if they live in a different state, as long as a trustee is located in the state. And under the new law, that trustee could access the digital data of the person’s assets that are placed in the Delaware trust.

Delaware’s law, called the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act, is modeled after an act drafted by the Uniform Law Commission, a group appointed by state governments that writes up and lobbies for new state laws. So far this year, at least 13 states, including Florida, Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota and Washington, are considering versions of this digital data act. As legislative sessions get into gear this year, state-government watchers anticipate that other states will consider or pass new rules granting digital access to agents for the deceased.

Privacy Concerns

The law is designed to give legally appointed fiduciaries the same access to digital assets as they would have for more tangible assets, such as files stored in cabinets or photos stored in shoeboxes, but not without some restraints. The law requires the fiduciary to follow the deceased or incapacitated person’s instructions for how accounts should be handled—which may include denying the fiduciary access to some or even all accounts. If there are no written instructions, the fiduciary can act as he or she sees fit, according to applicable laws.

A coalition of Internet firms unsuccessfully lobbied Delaware Gov. Jack Markell to veto the legislation. Jim Halpert, general counsel of this State Privacy and Security Coalition, says that, among other concerns, a digital-account holder may not want the content of communication with a doctor, counselor or patients disclosed.

The informal nature and sheer volume of most digital correspondence makes it significantly different from old-fashioned letters, Mr. Halpert says. “Email is a much more unfiltered form of communication,” he says. “People may not show the side of themselves that they want and other family members may be hurt by those communications.”

Taking Precautions

Mr. Blair recommends that account holders guard against such problems by spelling out in estate-planning documents how they want all their digital data treated, limiting access to sensitive accounts. He suggests doing this now, even for people outside Delaware, to ensure that those protections will be in place if the law changes where an account holder lives.

Mr. Blair cautions that while family members may share digital passwords and other login information, even a family member acting as a fiduciary should contact a lawyer before accessing any accounts, because doing so may violate state or federal law. “That’s where the minefield is right now, and that’s why this act is so important,” says Mr. Blair. “Just because you have the login and password doesn’t mean you can access it whenever you want.”

When You Die, Who Can Read Your Email?

Funerals and Instagram: A look at the funeral hashtags

Do You Need a Digital Estate Plan?

Will your estate executor have access to your digital estate? Do you know what is involved in a digital estate plan? It’s more than signing your paper will.

Is it enough to leave your email password on a notepad beside your computer?

Sorry, no. You need to learn more digital dos and don’ts.

Digital assets are various online or electronic files with your personal information. They include financial resources and social networks. Digital assets can include personal data with high emotional value. You could also have digital business property with monetary value. Digital assets can be stored electronically, online, in the cloud or on physical devices.

Passwords Can Control Access

Access to your online information or electronic storage is vital. Who should have access to your passwords?

When you make a will, you can appoint a digital executor. You can authorize your executor to hire experts to handle digital assets. You must, however, share passwords and login information to manage such assets.

Executors face a dilemma; in some cases, you may not have ownership of some digital property. Instead, only a non-transferrable access license may exist. Social media user agreements may only permit network access with a personal password. There is nothing to own or sell.

But executors have a duty to collect estate assets. Will they have to hunt for your passwords and usernames?

What about your material in the cloud, on social media or video sites? You can create a digital estate plan and specify your preferences. How is your executor to handle your digital accounts? Should files be closed, maintained or memorialized?

Secure Devices

Estate trustees must be aware of their duties to secure devices with digital information. This includes cell phones, tablets, laptops and computers.

Documents, photos, videos, text messages can be personal or business materials. Executors may not be able to distinguish between these.

Digital assets may have emotional and personal connections for your survivors. This may not translate to monetary value to calculate probate or income tax. However, the loss or expiry of a business domain name or blog can affect online sales and value.

Customer subscription lists and shopping carts can be stored online for businesses. Trademarks, copyrights and creative work can be considered assets and intellectual property. What about the value of an unpublished manuscript or musical composition?

Your online financial accounts may automatically pay utilities, credit card bills, income taxes or loan payments. Your digital estate property can include:

  • blogs
  • domain names
  • online photos and music
  • memorial websites
  • shopping networks
  • loyalty and reward programs

Credit card agreements may impose deadlines for the transfer of rewards or membership points.

Do Not Store Passwords in Wills

You need to store your digital information somewhere other than your will.

Once probated, your will and any password information become public. This could lead to fraud, cybercrime and identity theft.

Many online services store passwords and access codes. These may promise confidentiality. Their guarantees may be short-lived when such businesses fail. Also, digital laws will likely change and courts can order disclosure of such records.

Executors must be aware that online fees can continue to be charged and go undetected. Credit card payments or debt service accounts may have been set up for automatic payments. Without paper statements, executors may be unable to track them.

Digital worlds often have no paper trail to follow. User agreements may prohibit the transfer of passwords and access to anyone other than the registered user.

Can your executor answer your secret questions?

When asked, “What is your favourite bar beverage?” my answer is, “who’s buying?”