Electronic assets- special consideration for probate: identifying them and administering them after death.
Electronic assets are a part of our life now, whether on-line bank accounts, online game accounts, photo-sharing accounts and even social networking sites. The implications of this new form of assets are both practical and emotional. Practical — we must identify and ascertain the assets. Some accounts, such as Paypal do not send out tax certificates or any other paper information, so you are unlikely to find any record amongst the deceased’s papers. Emotional – someone must deal with removing photos from and updating social networking sites and access online subscriptions and Twitter accounts and close or delete them.
The practical difficulties extend to accessing the accounts. Is there a list of passwords kept with the will for this purpose? Given the security risk, this is unlikely, particularly in a sudden death. There are digital legacy providers for this purpose, but again security is a concern, either from hacking or employee fraud.
The emotional implications of closing down a Facebook page or closing a twitter account call for this to be handled by someone trusted by the deceased.
Finally ownership of digital assets is not clear cut as the current statutory definition of chattels does not cover them.