Preparing a Will in the digital age

3 September 2020

A will is an extremely important document; it ensures your wishes are known regarding the treatment of your assets after your death. While tangible assets are given considerable attention, digital assets are often overlooked

Digital assets are information and content stored digitally, such as photos, and can include email and social media accounts. Due to the important role online interactions now play in everyday life, considering how you would like your online accounts to be treated after your death is an important part of preparing a will. Making your wishes clear regarding these accounts can make the administration of your estate much easier, and help loved ones gain access to any important information.

One thing to consider is creating a secure list or database of accounts and their passwords, which you update frequently. Instructions should be included with each account, so that those who have access to this list after your death know what your wishes are, for example whether you would like your social media accounts deleted, or you would like your email contacts notified of your death. Let your executor or nominated person know of the lists existence and how to gain access. It’s not advised to store banking details and passwords, as this breaches most bank’s terms and conditions. The details of your password list and your accounts should not be included in your will, as once probate is granted, a will is a public document.

Some websites warn against sharing password details, and instead have policies regarding the treatment of accounts upon the death of the user. Some sites provide a legacy option, allowing users to nominate a person to succeed their account after death, while other sites can automatically delete an account after a period of inactivity. Consider the online accounts you have and whether any actions are needed to ensure the account is treated according to your wishes after your death.

There are also online password managers that provide a more modern approach to storing secure account information. Some of these allow users to designate an emergency contact so that in the event of the user’s death, the contact may gain temporary access to the deceased’s account

Whether you have a large online presence, or just want to ensure that information and photos are shared with loved ones, it’s important to consider what online assets you have. It’s vital to discuss your digital assets with your lawyer when creating or renewing your will, to decide the best approach.

Glenda Graham is part of our Private Client team at Norris Ward McKinnon.