With so much of our daily lives now managed and recorded on various social media platforms, and through online accounts, it is very important to consider what will happen to these online parts of our lives after we die. If you have trouble remembering your own passwords and logins, how difficult is it going to be for your Executors?!?!? What can be done to help your family manage your digital assets after you pass away?
Internet Bank Accounts
As with the traditional branch accounts, a person’s online bank accounts will be frozen by the bank upon notification of their passing. Funds will generally be released to pay funeral expenses only in the immediate term, with the rest held until a person’s authority to receive funds as an Executor can be established and confirmed, often through a Court process known as Probate. This will only be the case if the account is in your sole name. Joint accounts will remain accessible to the surviving account holder, who should simply notify the bank of their partner’s passing so that they may update their records.
Some things to consider with our social media accounts are whether we would like them to be deactivated/deleted on our passing, or memorialised? We should also consider how to access and download our data (pictures, videos, etc.) from these platforms and most importantly WHO will be nominated for this task?
Facebook now includes a ‘legacy contact’ feature where you can nominate another person to look after your account when you pass away. If no legacy contact is nominated your Executors are unlikely to be able to access your personal content beyond what your friends can usually see, as Facebook takes a strong line on protecting the privacy of its user’s accounts.
Below are links to the most common social media sites with further detail about how long you may have before an account is automatically deactivated (possibly limiting access to data for download) and the varied features currently available for each to help you prepare for the future of your accounts. A simple Google search should help you find these pages for any other accounts your loved one may have had.
Subscriptions, Memberships and More
These accounts can be cancelled by contacting the customer service department.
- Credit cards
- Utilities like internet, cable and phone
One strategy that may be a great starting point for many is to consider setting up an encrypted (locked) Word document listing your various online accounts and subscriptions, with your current log in details and passwords for each. This document needs to be regularly updated as your passwords change. You can then leave the details of this document and the password with your lawyer to be given to your Executors, only in the event of your passing.
The information set out above is only the tip of the iceberg, to get you thinking about your own digital affairs. However, this emerging area of estate planning is far from simple with little to no uniformity between the various service providers to which we entrust our assets and information.
Turner Freeman Lawyers – Wills & Estates specialists
To ensure you are prepared for your digital afterlife and to discuss your estate planning needs or to arrange an appointment to make/review your estate plan, please do not hesitate to contact Turner Freeman Lawyers Wills and Estates Team on (07) 3025 9000. Our Queensland offices are in Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Logan, North Lakes, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Gold Coast and Cairns.