Digital Estate Planning
We no longer go online, we live online. We bank, shop, chat, do business, apply for jobs, watch TV, listen to music, and even look for love online.
What the statistics say:
- There were 606 million online banking transactions over the previous financial year (compared to 59 million in-branch transactions and 261 million ATM transactions).
- In 2015, Australians spent $19 billion in online shopping, a figure that is expected to surpass $24 billion in 2018.
- 94.8% of Australian businesses use the internet.
- 7 in 10 Australians use Facebook.
- 84% of job seekers search for jobs online.
- 7.7 million Australians stream or download videos, TV and movies.
- 62% of the Australian music industry’s revenue comes from digital streaming.
- 15% of Australians (almost 3.5 million people) use dating app Tinder, 1200 people join matchmaking website RSVP every day, and eHarmony claims to be responsible for 11,000 marriages since 2007.
Yet, when it comes to estate planning most people forget all about their online existence, leaving it to the guess work of family and friends after they have passed.
Create a digital estate plan
At Lynn & Brown Lawyers, we recommend that you plan for digital assets when creating your Will and/or Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA).
Providing details as to what digital assets you own and what you want to happen to them can save a significant amount of time and trouble for your loved ones. For example, when it comes to social media, giving this information to your loved ones means they can remove your accounts or create a memorial on them, and prevent them being accessed and used by hackers. Unless your beneficiaries or your personal legal representative are aware of the information and media that you have stored online, they may be lost forever.
Formalise your digital estate plan (make it legal)
Once you have a list of your digital assets and have thought about what you want to happen to them, speak to one of our estate planning lawyers about formalising your digital estate plan.
Usually the most appropriate way to formalise your digital estate plan is to nominate a ‘digital executor’ in your Will or EPA and refer them to an outside document that contains all the necessary information they will need to deal with your digital estate (when you die your Will becomes a public document, so do not include your passwords and access information in your Will)
The law is still developing and changing in this area. Modern forms of wealth and asset ownership will continue to change and evolve. We recommend that if you have digital assets, you speak to an estate planning lawyer at our office in relation to updating your Will to include clauses for your executor or power of attorney to have power to handle, distribute, access or modify your digital assets upon your death.
About the authors:
This article has been co-authored by Claudia Giovannini and Steven Brown at Lynn & Brown Lawyers. Claudia is currently studying law at UWA and hopes to be admitted as a Perth lawyer in or about 2018. Steven is a Perth lawyer and director, and has over 20 years’ experience in legal practice and practices in commercial law, dispute resolution and estate planning.