Making a will? Don't forget your e-legacy...
Your online activities should not be overlooked when
making a will, advises Alison Turner, tax manager with DSH,
Maidstone-based accountants and business advisors
Most people use a will to determine how their estate
will be distributed and their affairs wound up after their death,
but few think about their online estate – email, online banking,
payment and shopping accounts, Facebook, Twitter and other social
Much of our online activity exists in a digital virtual world
and does not leave a paper trail. As these accounts often hold
important financial and confidential personal information, friends
and family will want these accounts to be closed down as quickly as
It is also important to protect against identity fraud. Social
media accounts carry a lot of personal information and inactive
social media and online accounts are vulnerable to exploitation by
criminals to create fake identities. Dealing with identity fraud
not only takes a long time but coupled with bereavement, adds
considerable stress on to friends and family.
The obvious solution is to write passwords and pin numbers into
your will and lodge it with a solicitor. But it should be
remembered that once probate is granted, the will becomes a public
document and information contained therein freely available to
anyone requesting a copy.
To prevent disclosure, the executor needs to act quickly to
change passwords and pin numbers in advance of probate. If the will
is lodged with a solicitor, each time it is updated a codicil will
be required. This can prove an onerous and costly business.
A second option is to put the information in a letter or
document that can be left with a solicitor, trusted friend or
family member. Although this may prove a cheaper alternative,
updating it on a regular basis to ensure its currency can still
Current advice is to maintain your own secure list of passwords
and pin numbers, and to leave instructions explaining where it is
kept and how it may be accessed, in the will or in a letter lodged
with a solicitor, trusted friend or family member.
Such a letter may also prove useful if for some reason you
become unable to manage your affairs and have set up a Lasting
Power of Attorney.
Although this seemingly contradicts current advice that we
should keep passwords and pin numbers secret and not to write them
down, failure to do so makes it an almost impossible task for the
executor to deal with a deceased’s accounts.
Contact DSH on 01622 690666 or visit www.dsh.co.uk.
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