You think you've organised everything for your estate.
You've written a will saying who gets what. You've
carefully laid out instructions on what to do with all your
business and property holdings.
But so many people forget we have another life these days
– a digital life, an online life, an e-life – and it
doesn't die when we do.
It could include Websites, Facebook, Twitter and numerous online
accounts that need to be paid such as electricity, rent, phones,
water and council rates. You might have a treasure trove of written
works, photos, music and videos all existing on a hard drive or, as
is increasingly happening, stored somewhere in the digital
They might be valuable to some people such as collectors or
historians. They might be of value only to your family. Either way,
if you haven't made arrangements for someone to be told where
to find them and have your access codes, passwords and so on, they
could be lost forever.
Privacy of users is a prime policy for most of the companies
that run internet content. Facebook won't allow access until
they see a death certificate. Yahoo! treats everyone's account
content as confidential even after death – and the only way
in is with the right password. Google demands a complex 'proof
of death' process delivered to its US headquarters before it
will allow access to material it has stored on Google Documents,
Gmail and Google Drive.
American composer Leonard Bernstein wrote his memoir on computer
hidden behind a password only he knew - 22 years after his death no
one has been able to crack the password.
He's not alone. A British study recently found only 11 per
cent of people make provisions to pass on their internet passwords
after they die.
Scientists, doctors, engineers, artists, writers, lawyers,
business people....anybody who stores their work on computer should
make sure somebody can access it when they die.
The person you leave login details, passwords and last wishes of
what to do with it could be your lawyer, executor, family or
friend. As wills can be seen by many people, it might be wise to
split the codes – leave part of the password with the
executor and the rest with somebody else. That could all be spelt
out in the will so the people involved don't even know about it
until after you die.
If there are things stored in the digital world you'd rather
your family didn't discover after you die, you might consider
giving your access codes to someone trustworthy to delete
embarrassing photos, emails etc.
We need to make sure our e-life goes the way we want when we
make that final log out.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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If you are doing a Will, or you are the executor of a deceased estate, consider what taxes and duties could be payable.
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