How do companies deal with digital assets post death?
How do large digital companies deal with subscriptions and/or accounts post death? What happens to the public’s copious amount of photos, videos, messages and documents on social media?
In as little as two years (from 2012 to 2014), the public have produced more data than in all of human civilisation before that – and is still increasing at an exponential rate.
While digital assets can take many forms such as online photos, subscriptions, music libraries, social network profiles or email accounts – the majority of us do not have physical records of them.
It is therefore not clear what people’s digital presences will look like in years to come but we can be certain that an ever-increasing number of people will be creating and accumulating more and more data until they pass away.
So, how do companies deal with such assets after death and how do they help and/or support digital estate planning?
Unfortunately, as an example, the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon, do not make it easy to find this out. However, a company called ‘Everplans’ provides instructions, advice and assistance on how to close an Amazon account when someone dies for their basic account and Amazon Prime accounts.
Everplans is the web’s leading resource for planning and organising your life, it enables you to create, store and share important documents that loved ones might need in the future in the event of death – which includes all assets in digital form. An Everplans’ Digital Estate Plan can be created in five easy steps and a digital executor appointed who carries out loved ones’ wishes for digital assets.
However, Social media do offer support and advice when it comes to dealing with accounts post death. Facebook instituted a policy a few years ago regarding how to handle profiles of deceased individuals – where family members can choose one of two options, either close it or turn the account into a memorial profile.
More and more online social networks are adopting rules to handle the situation such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram whereby proof of death, ID and possibly form filling is required to deactivate the account or ‘memorialise’ the accounts of deceased users.
While companies are showing signs of helping and advising on how to deal with accounts after someone dies, they are still behind the times. Currently, the majority of people have to adhere to “Terms and Conditions” of each digital service offered. An example of this is Apple’s Itunes where currently everything bought expires upon death – which shows company legislation needs to catch up to reality!
As a private client professional, have you ever dealt with digital assets in estate planning?