“Digital assets” include photographs, videos, emails, online banking accounts, cryptocurrency, domain names, blogs and online gaming accounts; and assets can have significant personal, sentimental and even financial value.
Permitting access to these assets after death or incapacity is essential, but often the terms of service agreements between users and service providers make it very difficult to do so.
At present, there is no law in Australia that directly addresses this issue.
The NSW Law Reform Commission is currently considering submissions, and its interim report contains preliminary suggestions as to how the problem should be addressed at the state level.
However, governments move slowly. If you want to protect your digital assets after death or after incapacity, there are steps you can take now to do so.
- Make a list of your digital assets, passwords to access them, and put that list in a safe place where you know your executor will find them. Do not write them into your will.
- Indicate on that list whether you want those accounts closed, or deleted, or passed onto someone else. It’s not clear whether your accumulated points, or credits, or purchases and electronic downloads can be transferred to someone else on your death, so you can only leave your executor with details which allow access to those accounts.
- Some online services have addressed the issue themselves, eg Google, so you may nominate a person to have authority over your account if, for example, you do not access it for a specified period of time. Make sure you keep that information up to date.
Digital assets have value; and will live on after you. Protect them.