Have you considered what will happen to your digital assets on your death? All those e-mails you have sent and received as well as important and sentimental information and precious photographs stored on social networks and in cloud storage. Not all digital assets can be inherited and your precious data could be lost forever on your death.
Sadly, we often do not own our digital assets. All we have is a licence to use a website’s services. When we open an account with the service provider we accept the terms and conditions of use, as set out in the licence agreement. It is this licence agreement that will determine what will happen to the asset on our death. As a general rule, licences are specific to an individual, they are not transferable and will terminate on death – meaning that the ‘asset’ will not therefore form part of your estate.
Some social media sites have policies in place when a user dies. You have the option to have your Facebook and Instagram accounts memorialised on your death, that is turned into a page where people can leave comments and celebrate your life, or deleted. Your Facebook content can also be downloaded. Twitter will close your account and can provide an archive of public tweets for your family.
Other cloud and social media companies have provisions in their terms of service which deal with inactive accounts. Dropbox will delete your account 90 days after the last login. Microsoft will delete your Hotmail account if it is not accessed for over 270 days but may allow access to authorised persons after six months. Yahoo will shut down your account and delete its data upon receipt of your death certificate. Neither your Yahoo account nor its contents can be transferred after your death. Google has an inactive account manager which enables ownership and control of inactive accounts to be transferred to authorised users. LinkedIn has a process for your account’s removal on your death.
The situation with other digital assets is less clear. Your iTunes account, Amazon media, and other items which have cloud storage are probably not transferable on your death as you do not own these digital assets. You merely have a licence to access the music, videos, and books etc.
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