If you have made a valid will, then when you die your assets will be distributed in accordance with that will and the process of getting in and distributing those assets will be managed by the executors appointed under that will.
The estate to be managed by your executors includes all of your property, including any of your intellectual property rights that survive you.
In many cases, content created and posted by you online on social media sites or email is intellectual property which will pass to your executors on your death.
Whilst there may not be a lot of financial value in such content, you and your loved ones may wish for that online content to be managed appropriately after your death.
It is not unusual, in the internet age, for the law to lag behind developments in the online world, and there are no clear laws granting family members or executors who do not have the required passwords, access to a deceased person’s social media content.
One thing you can do is to provide a list of email and social media sites, usernames and passwords to someone you trust, who might also be the executor named in your will.
Whilst probably not binding upon your executor, your will, or a document held with your will, could contain a prompt or a set of directions stating your wishes in respect of how your online presence should be managed after your death. The US government at one stage even went so far as to publish a recommendation that people consider writing a “social media will” containing such information.
Of course you are well advised to make regular changes to online passwords and so keeping a social media will up to date may require regular review, however, your normal will should be reviewed regularly in any event. We suggest no less than every 5 years.
You may also want to check out online sites like Password Box or Dead Social which contain some interesting ideas about managing your social media presence from beyond the grave.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information on this and other Estate Planning matters.