Martin Beames, Tax & Estates Partner with Wannops LLP Solicitors, explains why it is important to think about what would happen to your online presence if you die.
When an individual makes a Will, they usually think in terms of their physical assets – what happens to their house, car or money. However, with the way modern life develops these days, we all have an ever-increasing digital presence. Whether it is multiple email or online banking accounts, social networking accounts or even simply a storage facility of many photographs, we all have a presence in cyberspace.
Internet based bank accounts can be a source of problems for the family after a person dies. Suppose a person has internet only accounts, with no hard-copy statements or paperwork – how will the family even know of the existence of the account? A person may be an active user of E-Bay with a linked PayPal account with money in it, or even online gambling or store accounts. It is crucial therefore that a separate hard-copy list identifying where accounts are held, and with which financial institution, is maintained with your personal papers. At the very least, such a list should be kept with your Will.
It is not only your cash assets that may be tied up in online accounts. Email accounts, together with social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, are more popular than ever. Executors or family members looking to deal with the affairs of a deceased person should ensure such accounts are closed in the same way as they would close a banking account. Such accounts can provide opportunities for criminals to become involved in identity theft, and as such must be addressed. The same will apply to domain names. A domain name is an asset which has a value and should pass to the executors to deal with as part of a person’s estate. However, the family do need to know of your ownership of that domain name, and be able to find evidence to support that ownership.
All this points to the need to keep a record of your online digital presence somewhere, so that if you die, those left behind can sort out not just your physical affairs, but your digital ones too. Give it some thought and make sure that somewhere you have substantive records of what accounts you possess in the electronic world that now dominates our lives. This will at least enable your family to start tracing and dealing with your cyber-presence after you have gone. People have argued for centuries about the existence of ghosts – but without effective planning, you surely will continue as a ghost in the cyber world after your death!
Please feel free to contact the Martin Beames at Wannops LLP Solicitors at our Worthing Office on 01903 228200 to discuss any matters that you wish.
To find out more, please telephone 020 3728 7900 or send us an email. Alternatively, please feel free to contact Martin Beames at Wannops LLP Solicitors on 01903 228200.
Will or estate planning advice is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.