As time moves on, individuals have more and more digital property to consider when drafting their Will(s). In a previous blog post, I discussed the manner in which different types of social media accounts are dealt with upon an account holder’s death. Recently, the difficulty resulting from a failure to leave instructions on where to find account information was experienced firsthand by a woman in Victoria.
After the death of her husband, 72 year old Peggy Bush wanted to access a game app found on her husband’s iPad. She did not know the Apple ID password, meaning that when the app stopped working she couldn’t reload it. She needed to contact Apple.
It is reported that at first the family was told that Apple would need a copy of the deceased’s Will and death certificate in order to assist. This later changed. After months of correspondence, and after receiving a copy of the Will, Apple advised they would need a court order to provide the requested information. Peggy was understandably frustrated as she had had an easier time transferring title in land and ownership to a car than obtaining the Apple ID password to access a game. (I should note the husband’s Will left everything to Peggy.)
After the family contacted Go Public, Apple customer service reached out to the family to assist with the matter. That said, it is reported that Apple wouldn’t discuss policy with Go Public.
In a recent blog post, family law lawyer Patricia Gordon commented that it “isn’t unusual to find that the law in general, and family law in particular, has lagged behind social progress and no longer represents the reality of our daily lives.” Similarly, as is considered in the CBC article, estates law is arguably lagging behind technological advancement. The concept of ownership has become complicated as individuals own material online, but service providers own the medium through which the assets are accessed. Further, with increased use of digital assets comes increased concerns regarding privacy.
Peggy’s experience reminds us of the importance of considering digital assets when putting together an estate plan. Although it is not recommended that you put passwords in your Will, it is wise to consider who should be able to access your digital accounts and to, in one way or another, leave instructions regarding where password information can be found.
When meeting with your lawyer to discuss your estate plan, let her or him know if you have any special wishes with respect to your digital assets so that she or he can consider what provisions need be added to your Will(s) to express your wishes.