Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Digital age brings a challenge

Martin-Kaye's senior partner says today’s digital revolution is creating a whole new raft of challenges when it comes to personal accounts. 

Graham Davies said many people now had large collections of “digital possessions” – iTunes, films, e-book downloads.

“The cost of these assets can run into hundreds of pounds, but have you considered what would happen to them if you died? In this digital world, it’s quite possible that you’ll have an extensive collection, probably all held as digital downloads. And while no-one likes to talk about it, death is inevitable for everyone.

“Business people will probably have taken professional advice on estate planning and prepared a will, but does it cover anything you have in a digital format?”

Graham said currently the law says any books, music, or films held in this way (maybe in a cloud server or a service provider’s account) do not actually belong to the person who has downloaded them. “You only buy permission to use them personally, not to pass them on to anyone else – either while you’re alive or otherwise.

“So when you die, these possessions and any associated accounts die with you. Service providers usually automatically shut down accounts when they are notified of the account-holder’s death and they won’t release the password to a third party, even if you are the executor of the will.

“The best option is to copy your files onto a laptop or external hard drive – that way you can pass on the equipment to someone else, or include a list of all your online accounts in your will and store your passwords with your accountant or solicitor.”