Making A Will? Don't Forget Your Online Assets

Internet Accounts Can Form a Significant Part of Your Estate

20.10.2011

ESTATE dispute experts are advising anyone making a will to consider their online affairs when doing so.

The specialist Will disputes solicitors at Irwin Mitchell say that many people who make wills forget to specify how they want social media and other online accounts to be managed following their deaths. This often leaves loved ones with difficult decisions to make about the deceased person’s online presence.

Chris Walton, a solicitor in the firm’s specialist Will, Trust and Estate Dispute team, said: “People across the globe now live a huge part of their lives online, with increasing numbers having accounts on various sites – including online gaming and gambling sites, as well as portals such as PayPal – which often have significant monetary value which would ordinarily form part of the assets of their estate.

“Our online interests are only likely to increase, so it is vital that the issue is carefully considered when planning for the future. We have already seen cases where lists of log-in details have been provided when receiving Will instructions and this is undoubtedly something that more people need to think about.”

Chris said it was important that will-makers specify whether they want their accounts on sites such as Facebook, Google+ or Twitter to remain online or be closed down.

He said: “With something like a Facebook account, you can ask for it to be closed down after your death, but your loved ones will be left with the often emotional task of going through your profile and transferring information such as images, before they delete the account.

"The alternative is the memorial approach, in which your online Facebook account is frozen at the point of death but continues to exist and is used a place for people to place their online condolences.”

The instructions can be included either in the will itself or in an accompanying Letter of Wishes. The right to deal with online accounts will pass to the executor of the estate or, where there is no will, to the administrator of the estate. If no instructions are left for dealing with online accounts, this may mean that disputes arise within the family.

Chris said: “By making your wishes clear and recognising the growing influence of the online world, those making their will can actively take positive steps towards protecting their families from unnecessary heartache and also potentially divisive estate disputes.”

If you are involved in a will dispute or need further information about contesting a will, please visit our Will, Trust & Estate Disputes section