In this age of social media with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn plus all the other internet sites to which you subscribe, the inability to access your online accounts can create all sorts of problems for your family when you die or lose capacity.
As a result you need to think about leaving some instructions so others can access your email accounts and social media profiles after your death or if you become incapacitated due to illness, injury or old age, and deal with them according to your wishes.
A social media will is now becoming an important requirement and should be considered along with a regular will, power of attorney and power of guardianship.
Social media guidelines
Mindful of the growing importance of giving directives on what happens to your online profile after your death, the US Government has issued some guidelines on how to deal with your social media online presence.[i]
Your social media executor should also have access to your usernames and passwords on your death. This list may be given to a trusted relative or friend, kept in a secure location with your other legal documents, or it might be that you present it as a sealed document to be opened when the time comes. You may also wish to leave instructions for accessing your password-protected devices including your computer, mobile and iPad.
It’s important to keep these passwords up to date, particularly as many digital accounts require regular changes.
You should also stipulate in your social media will that the executor has a copy of your death certificate to access your accounts.
The Australian authorities have yet to act on providing specific guidelines but the US suggestions still carry weight over here.[ii]
Otherwise “Australia’s laws have almost nothing to say about digital material when you pass away,” [iii] and you could be stuck.
Keep bank passwords
Despite the need to provide your social media executor with your password details, your bank password remains sacrosanct and should never be divulged. When it comes to your banking, your executor will go to the bank with your death certificate and the bank will then close and freeze all your accounts. This will automatically stop any online transactions including your direct debits. Your executor will have to advise the relevant utilities and other direct debit suppliers of your death as the money will no longer come out of the bank account.
The Australian Bankers Association stresses the importance of keeping your bank password private, saying the information is not pertinent to dealing with your banking after your death and divulging it is in effect breaking your contract with the bank.[iv]
The importance of working out beforehand how your online presence is to be managed upon your death cannot be stressed enough. At the end of the day, you don’t want your life to be locked in cyberspace after you have gone.
If you want to know more on how to incorporate a social media will into your estate planning, please do not hesitate to call Equitas Partners and discuss with Rob MacLean on (02) 9492 0444 or request a confidential discussion here.
[ii] Australian Law Society
[iii] Dr Leaver as quoted http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-29/what-happens-to-your-social-media-accounts-when-you-die
[iv] Ian Gilbert, policy director at the Australian Bankers Association