Monday, 3 June 2013

Online identities, artwork and photographs upon death

Whilst alive an increasing number of people establish and develop comprehensive identities in online venues such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Instagram and the like. Huge quantities of material pertaining to the deceased might also be located in "cloud based" storages not duplicated on any hardware owned by the deceased person.  Sometimes these identities include numerous photographs of the deceased and family which are not stored elsewhere. They can also comprise a very interesting and useful chronology of certain years of the life and times of a deceased person.
Sometimes the need is felt to close these pages down after someone has passed away.
The problem that is often occurring is that no one in the family can work out what online material the deceased person established and maintained and, even if they know of it, they can't access it because they don't know the required passwords, without which Facebook and the like can be extremely unhelpful, not to mention altogether inaccessible.
Similar problems can be experienced when certain bank or other accounts or share trading sites can only be accessed with accurate client identification numbers and passwords.

Sometimes no one can even obtain access the deceased persons personal computer, Ipad, Iphone or other device which might contain billions of valuable Bytes relating to the deceased's life and family. One client of mine recently solved the problem by simply  immersing the computer in the dam at the rear of the property for a couple of days. Whilst this, for practical purposes, certainly may have worked in relation to the material actually stored on the computer itself, it took a good deal of explanation before the client could understand that huge volumes of material probably remained undisturbed online. I also thought it was a shame that valuable material regarding the deceased might have thus been lost forever.

More and more wills, or other collateral arrangements, will have to deal specifically with these issues. Putting actual passwords in a will document can be problematic because it is normally recommended practice to alter passwords regularly. Putting a list with the will might work if that list is actually replaced when the passwords are altered. A direction in or with the will directing an Executor to the location of various passwords might work as long as the direction is adhered to and the list is kept current. Giving someone else a comprehensive list of all of your passwords is not normally recommended for obvious reasons.

More often than not the solution will depend upon the individuals personal circumstances. It is certainly worth knowing that this problem is becoming quite widespread and more common each year. Give some thought to what would happen to all of your digital material in the event of your death and to what might be done to alleviate the situation.