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HCR Law Events

7 January 2022

Who can access your online assets after you die?

We find ourselves moving closer to being a tech-focused society, where bank statements and utility bills coming through the door is becoming less common. When we think of dealing with a person’s affairs once they die, we would expect to find papers filled with important details and photos full of memories. However, it is becoming the new normal for people to store their documents and photos online.

Research carried out by the Law Society found that only 26% of respondents know what happens to their digital assets after they die, whilst the majority do not have a full understanding. Of those surveyed with a will, 93% did not include any digital assets in their will.

The question, then, is who can access your online data after you die?

A personal representative does not have an automatic right to this data and will have go through the courts to gain access to any digital accounts, which can prove a timely and costly process. In an effort to move away from applications to the courts, Apple has recently released its ‘Digital Legacy’ feature allowing nominated people to have access to an account once an account holder dies.

The chosen contact can be granted access so long as they have a special access key and a copy of the death certificate. This is, of course, reliant on the account holder using this feature to add a contact and keeping the access code safe with their estate planning documents during their lifetime.

So, if you are considering making a will, it is important not only to think of your assets in terms of property, finances and your personal items, but also to consider what you hold digitally and how your loved ones can access these after your death.

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About the Author
Alex Taylor, Joint Head of Private Client Team

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