The firm, one of Darlington and County Durham’s longest established law firms, recommends that anyone in the process of drawing up a will should now as a "matter of course” include an up-to-date list of all their online accounts, such as email, banking, investments and social networking sites.
Daniel Williams, a member of the private client team at Latimer Hinks, said: "Simple measures such as these will make it easier for family members to recover accounts or to close them. It should also prevent problems such as the loss of items of sentimental value including photographs. These days, a lot of photos are stored online, so it’s important that a record is made of where these are.
"By making our wishes clear now, it will be easier for loved ones to recover cherished pictures and will help with the more practical issues such as online bank accounts.”
He adds that the list should not include passwords or PINs: "An executor accessing the deceased’s account with these details could be committing a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. Passwords should certainly not be listed in a will which will ultimately have to be published.”
The term 'digital legacy' also includes computer game characters in online games like World of Warcraft; music and films; internet domains registered to the deceased; YouTube videos; and Bitcoins, all of which can be valuable.
Mr Williams recommends that the testator leave a ‘Letter of Wishes’ giving executors access to online accounts and stating which accounts should be deleted after death. However, executors are at the mercy of service providers and problems may be encountered if service providers do not recognise the consents given in a Letter of Wishes. Even where records exist, the licensing arrangements attached to some assets – such as Apple's iTunes – specify that the assets die with the original owner.
Some assets, however, will not survive beyond an individual’s lifetime. In many cases, individuals are merely sold licences to use online music, films and books, including Kindle, preventing them from being passed on to others.
For further information contact Daniel Williams (http://www.latimerhinks.co.uk/