Death and the Digital
The recent case of Rachel Thompson has once again emphasised the importance of making a will and keeping it up to date. Mrs Thompson’s husband sadly died without having made a will aged only 39. She wanted her daughter Matilda to be able to look at his digital assets, namely 4500 photos and videos held in her late husband’s Apple account. Apple initially pushed her to obtain a probate document and then insisted on her obtaining a court order. Judge Jan Luba this week made the order forcing Apple to release the digital archive. The judge and many legal experts have called for the law to be updated to avoid others having to go through the same experience. It took Mrs Thompson three years to win her battle.
Most of us have digital assets including photos, recordings, videos and multiple on line accounts with passwords. Some may even hold virtual cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. It used to be simple to gift personal items such as photographs in a will but now most photos are held online. Our loved ones need a password to access these. You should consider sharing accounts (where permissible) or keeping passwords in a way which is accessible after your death. Be aware however that many cloud providers prohibit the sharing of passwords and using another person’s password can be an offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.
A well worded will including a reference to digital assets may help. You should also think about keeping a register of digital assets with your will so that they know where to start looking. Until the law catches up with digital assets however it may still be a grey area for some time to come.
For more information or to make an appointment at our Newcastle or South Shields office please call Hayley Baker on 0191 243 8167