Facebook, eBay, Bebo, Paypal & MySpace, to name just some of the online accounts that millions of Britains have joined in the online revolution. As a nation we are becoming more and more dependent on online accounts, we shop, chat, gamble and date online but what happens to these accounts when someone dies? The way we live has changed so quickly and the law is struggling to keep up.
Without a password some accounts are impossible to access and should they include PayPal or eBay for example, this could lead to thousands of pounds being denied to the next of kin. When making a Will a person will think about their house, car and share portfolio but may not specify what happens to their online accounts. It’s not just the financial loss, with over 24 million Facebook users in the UK alone, access to sentimental possessions may also be denied, with photos and pictures being lost forever in cyberspace.
An online company may be happy to grant access to an account if an individual can produce evidence that they are the Executor but what if a person dies without a Will? There have been examples of online companies who flatly refuse to grant access to a deceased’s account without this sort of documentation. There are several companies which aim to help avoid this scenario, users can log in and set up an account to specify who will receive their digital assets on their death. However, the numbers of people who have set up this type of account remains low, with most of us simply not thinking about the consequences.
Nobody wants to contemplate death, but with most of us owning some type of online account maybe we should all consider what will happen to our online assets when we die, at least until the law catches up!