A recent survey by the Law Society indicates 93% of the respondents with a will had not made any provision for their digital assets. The articles serves as a timely reminder, when more of our day to day life has become 'virtual' out of necessity, to ensure that digital assets are dealt with by a will.
It is likely that at least some aspects of a testator's personal life could be conducted online. Questions should always be asked about this when taking will drafting instructions. Relevant information could include social media (photographs, emails) but also shopping accounts linked to online instalment payment plans, or banking and investment apps. Other apps include gambling apps on which the testator may have had a credit balance or even purely online subscriptions. These are no doubt all designed to make life easier for the testator. However, in the absence of passwords or even being provided with a note that these accounts exist, how can a personal representative hope to properly administer the estate? Not locating these assets or liabilities could potentially leave personal representatives open to claims should they come to light after some time, should there be significant barriers to reopening the accounts and/or the value of assets have decreased. Testators themselves may also want to look into just how the provider in question deals with the online asset on death.
One difficulty is the speed with which passwords can change (I know I have to reset many of mine regularly!) or the number, or name, of the apps or online accounts being used. Making reference in a will to the location of the password book (what it looks like and where it is always kept perhaps) might be one solution. We are constantly encouraged never to reveal our passwords to third parties and during our lifetime this is something many people will quite rightly want to adhere to. However, ensuring the will is kept in a secure place either with the will writer or locked in a secure cabinet, should help to ensure the details remain confidential. Making and storing a will with a professional should also help to alleviate any concerns about family members finding the will, and latterly the password book in question. But ultimately it is better if there is a reference to it somewhere so that assets are not overlooked, the estate value is correctly reported, debits are stopped and beneficiaries receive everything a testator intended.
research reveals that three quarters of people do not know what happens to their online presence after they die.