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Social media and online accounts – what happens to them when you die?

People underestimate the wealth of personal information which they hold online. This ranges from personal photographs to online bank accounts. Often product or service accounts are online such as electricity bills or life assurance policies.

When you die no-one can access these and many may be deleted automatically after 9-12 months of non-use. Your loved ones then lose all those personal photos and possibly valuable financial information.

So, how should you deal with this? In the same way as your bricks and mortar – include it in your Will. You can even state a ‘digital executor’ and in a separate document provide all account details and passwords to enable access.
I see many people who have organised a list of their online data already and anticipate their loved one will simply impersonate them online following their death. The difficulty with this is online assets are non-transferable and impersonating someone else is a breach of terms and conditions. It could also enable a person who isn’t due to inherit an asset, to take ownership without the knowledge of the executor (who would be personally liable for the loss by the rightful beneficiary).

Nearly all online providers, Gmail, Facebook, MySpace have policies in place for when a user dies. They generally need to see a death certificate and evidence the deceased authorised another to have access following their death. Presentation of a Will bequeathing digital assets, leaves no room for confusion.