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Where there is a will, there is a digital legacy

In this increasingly digital world, a relatively new but important consideration is how can you make sure your online assets are taken care of after death? You may have many questions in relation to your digital legacy, including how will your appointed executors locate, access and gain control of your intellectual property? And how will they administer such assets in line with your best wishes?

Web-based services are increasing in number and sophistication; the wide use of online banking and cryptocurrency that allows users to spend, trade and manage their money online is one important example of this. As this trend continues, our digital assets are likely to become as valuable as our physical property. At Wilson & Fish, our experienced executry lawyers provide advice on how you can manage your digital assets through your will. It is our job to listen to your intentions and ensure they are protected in the distribution of your assets.

Recently, lawyers and legal academics have called for new powers to enable people to decide what happens to their digital assets after they have died. The increase in awareness follows a controversial decision from a German court that ruled the parents of a teenage girl had no rights to access her Facebook account after the girl’s death. The case has raised important questions about who can manage a person’s online presence after their death.

Digital assets

The following digital assets should be dealt with in your will:

  • social media accounts, e.g. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube;
  • online trading accounts, e.g. eBay and Amazon;
  • online banking, credit cards and money transfer accounts, e.g. PayPal and Google Wallet;
  • online digital music and movie collections;
  • domain names of personal and business websites, and subdomains including hosting websites and email marketing systems; and
  • online photos, blogs, recorded messages and posts.

When it comes to protecting these assets, it is the economic and emotional value that should be addressed.

In cases involving digital assets, the legal issues around access, transmission, distribution, maintenance and ownership of the deceased’s online accounts are highly complex. Companies behind the websites involved tend to have their own policies on privacy and so each will need to be dealt with separately, meaning cases can be time consuming. Unfortunately, the rules, principles and laws on online assets are still not fully developed and this can cause problems when it comes to dealing with our digital legacies. That is why it is important to work with executry professionals.

Digital legacies: issues

1.Where the deceased was based in Scotland, problems can arise when trying to access accounts operated by a company based in another jurisdiction, such as the US. This can cause significant delays

2.There can be issues related to intellectual property e.g. music or online books and lectures. The main questions to answer are who will inherit what, and who held the intellectual property rights in the first place?

3.Currently, Facebook does not provide relatives with automatic access to a deceased person’s account. The social media giant instead offers a “memorialisation” service, where the account remains open and family and friends can leave messages. However, there can be privacy and other unresolved issues with such accounts, including incomplete statements, messages or developing

4.The average person has five social media accounts, as well numerous profiles on other online platforms. So, one of the biggest challenges with digital legacies is managing the size of a typical person’s online presence. It can be difficult to locate all the accounts held by a deceased person, not to mention the usernames and passwords for each. What’s more, the law may prohibit you

Things also get complicated where there is a business involved. For example, a domain name can be crucial to the branding and marketing of a business, and it is, therefore important to establish who should take control of these matters after death.

Our solicitors at Wilson & Fish are committed to remaining informed about the developments taking place in the digital sector. This puts our team in an excellent position to offer expert advice on the wide range of issues involved in protecting your intellectual property and online presence.

Contact specialist executry and probate lawyers in Scotland today

With so much of our lives, both personal and professional, taking place online, it is becoming increasingly important to include digital provisions in wills. Your online presence, from Facebook profiles to online bank and trading accounts, should be dealt with in a specific digital legacy section so that you can have peace of mind that your digital assets will be dealt with as you wish. Get in touch with us today if you need a specialist advice on online assets, whether as a maker of the will or as an executor or beneficiary. Call us on 0141 222 7951 today or fill out our online enquiry form.

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