If you own digital assets like a Facebook page or a Google email account, what happens to them when you die? Assuming that your next of kin know your passwords, he or she can easily delete them. However, if your passwords are not available, shutting down these accounts can prove problematic. Each email or social media company has specific rules governing the disposition of its accounts and they often refuse to vary from those rules. Some allow an executor or next of kin with suitable proof of death to close an account. Others do not, making this writer wonder if those accounts will just float around cyberspace forever.
Many people feel that there should be laws governing all digital assets in the same way that another personal property is currently legislated. However, even though digital assets have become a big part of our lives, Canada and Ontario have not even begun to legislate what happens to them after your death.
What are digital assets in an estate?
A digital asset can be a wide variety of electronic records and files that are stored online, on mobile devices, or on personal computers. Simply put, almost anything you keep a digital record of is considered a digital asset and something that should be noted in your digital Estate Plan.
How do I leave a digital asset in a will?
The simplest way to ensure that your executor will be able to access your accounts after you die is for you to leave explicit log-in information and instructions in a separate letter. That way, your executor will be able to manage your accounts without relying on government laws or company policies.
What is the simple checklist to complete when using digital assets?
The Ultimate Digital Vault Checklist
- Estate Planning Documents.
- Property Deeds & Titles.
- Insurance Policies.
- Forms of Identification.
- Financial Accounts.
- Email and Social Media Accounts.
- Cell Phone Passcode and Application Accounts.
- Cloud Storage Accounts.
Digital Estate planning concerns the steps required to organize and protect digital assets after death or following incapacity by providing instructions and authorization for personal representatives. An individual can appoint an attorney to manage his or her assets during incapacity through a Power of Attorney and an Executor to administer his or her Estate on death through a Will. Since Canada currently has no legislation regarding the disposal of or rights and succession to digital assets, digital asset planning can ease the burden for the personal representatives of a deceased or incapable person. If the disposition of digital assets is not properly planned for, there may be unintended negative consequences. Digital information not properly protected may reveal secrets that could damage an individual’s reputation or cause strife amongst family and friends. Also, if a personal representative is not able to quickly access and takes control of digital assets, fraud or identity theft could result. Planning for the disposition of digital assets is recommended to minimize the risk to incapable persons, personal representatives, and beneficiaries.
The Law in Canada.
To date, there is no law in Ontario or Canada that specifically addresses ownership and control of digital assets after someone dies. This is why we recommend buying our Smartwills Estate Planning Kit. It is one central place to store this kind of information
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This material is for general information and educational purposes only. Information is based on data gathered from what we believe are reliable sources. It is not guaranteed as to accuracy, does not purport to be complete and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions.