In an age of increasing digital progression, it is more important than ever to ensure that you have a Will. Whereas once upon a time, your loved ones would have accessed to photo albums and video tapes, many of our treasured memories are now stored electronically.
The recent case of Rachel Thompson highlights this important area. Her husband sadly died without making a Will. He was aged just 39 and left behind Rachel and their young daughter. Her husband, like most of us now, was keen on taking photographs and videos of the family using his mobile phone. When he died, Rachel did not have access to his passwords meaning that she was unable to access treasured memories of over 4500 photos and 900 videos of the family. After 3 years of pursuing legal action, Rachel has now won her case with Apple for this information to be released to her.
So what can we do to protect our loved ones from a similar fate?
Firstly, it is important to make a Will. This will mean you are able to appoint a trusted person to deal with your estate upon death. When making your Will, ensure you make your legal representative aware of any information you store digitally e.g. on your mobile phone, computer or cloud. You should ensure that you collect and collate as much information regarding your online accounts as possible, including user names and passwords. These will not form part of your Will which will become a public document upon your death but will be stored separately. You must ensure that these are regularly kept up to date. You should ensure that your passwords are stored securely and discreetly and ensure that it is not in breach of any terms of service with the chosen provider.
You may also wish to consider preparing a letter of wishes to go with your Will explaining how you would like your digital assets to be dealt with on your death and who you wish to have access.
We are sure that the law will develop in time as the importance of digital assets become more and more recognised. However, until a more unified process is put into effect, you need to ensure that you have a well worded Will which reflects you wishes and feelings not only in relation to your physical assets, but also your digital ones.