Digital Assets are becoming a bigger part of our lives as each day goes by. It might be strange to think of things like social media accounts, online shopping programs, Frequent Flyer points, and other online memberships as “assets”. But they all have value in one form or another, and as such, we should include all our Digital Assets in our Estate Planning.
The questions are – what exactly are our Digital Assets, how do we include them in our Estate Planning, and what are the options available?
Digital Assets are defined as anything that exists as binary data, is self-contained, and carries a “right to use”. This is a broad definition and covers almost everything you can think of that exists in digital form that you have the right to use – the photos on your smartphone, the digital content you’ve purchased such as audiobooks, movies, or video games, your social media accounts and content, any data stored in web apps you use, any digital artwork you’ve created, documents you’ve stored in cloud storage – the list goes on.
Digital Assets don’t include anything that’s not a discreet thing or that you merely have permission to access but don’t actually own (such as your Netflix subscription or podcasting aggregator).
The digital content that comprises your Digital Assets have value – photos of you, words you’ve written, media you have purchased – and anything of value you own, real or digital, forms your Estate. If you don’t give proper consideration to your Digital Assets after you die, they may be lost or misused.
How do I include Digital Assets in my Estate Planning?
In this article we will focus on four main areas for consideration:
There is more to Digital Assets than these four but in our experience, these are the most important to ensure are covered.
What happens to my Facebook account when I die?
When you die, if a friend or family member informs Facebook of your passing, they can request your account be “memorialised” upon presentation of evidence that you’ve passed. This basically freezes the account in time and limits the interactions that the account can perform. No-one can access a memorialised account unless they have been nominated as a “legacy contact”.
What is a Legacy Contact on Facebook?
Your legacy contact is the individual you nominate to administer your account after your death. They will receive a notification when they are nominated, and again once the account has been memorialised. It is highly recommended to appoint a legacy contact for your Facebook profile so they log into your account to post tributes, change your profile picture, and manage friend requests.
What if I don’t appoint a legacy contact?
Without a legacy contact, your friends or family will need to provide evidence to Facebook that you have passed away so your account can be memorialised.
What if I don’t want my account to be memorialised?
You have the option for your Facebook account to be permanently deleted on your death. You can select this option in your general account settings on your profile (Settings > General > Memorialisation Settings). Only your immediate family can request deletion of your account if you don’t select any options in your memorialisation settings. They will need to complete the Special Request for Medically Incapacitated or Deceased Person's Account form to do this.
How does Facebook find out if someone has died?
Facebook will only know someone has passed away if they are notified by the person’s friends or family. They will only memorialise the account on receipt of evidence of the person’s death.
How can my family notify Facebook of my death?
This Facebook help centre article describes the documentation they will need to provide when filling out the Special Request for Medically Incapacitated or Deceased Person’s Account form.
What happens after my account has been memorialised?
The word “Remembering” will appear in front of your name. All your previously shared content will remain visible according to the sharing settings used at the time. Depending on your privacy settings, your friends and family will still be able to post and share content on your wall and tag your account in posts.
What happens to my Instagram profile when I die?
Instagram will memorialise an account on the notification that the account holder has passed. But unlike Facebook, you can’t nominate a legacy contact, nor will they give access to your account after you’ve died. Your executor can request removal of your account, so if you want this to occur you need to include these instructions in your Estate Planning.
How does Instagram find out if someone has died?
A friend or family member can notify Instagram for someone who has passed away using the Request to memorialise a deceased person's Instagram account form. They will need to provide evidence of the person’s death, but this can be a link to or a screenshot of an obituary or news article. Once processed, the account will be memorialised.
What happens when an Instagram account is memorialised?
The word “Remembering” will appear next to the person’s name. No-one can log into the account and it will not appear in public spaces (such as the “explore” section). All the shared content will still be visible, but the profile will become frozen in time, with no further changes possible to the account and no ability for it to share any more posts.
What if I want my Instagram account deleted instead of memorialised?
Only your executor or estate administrator can request deletion of your Instagram account, and they will need evidence such as both your birth and death certificates and proof of the executor’s authority. This is why it’s vital to include your Instagram account in your Estate Planning if you want your account deleted upon your death.
What happens to my Twitter account when I die?
Nothing will happen to your account unless a verified family member and your executor request deactivation of your account.
How does Twitter find out if someone has died?
Twitter does not actively search for accounts of deceased individuals. They will only know if your verified family member and your executor request deactivation. If you don’t want your Twitter deactivated, tell your family members not to request this.
Does Twitter memorialise deceased accounts?
No. The only option for change to a deceased individual’s account is deactivation. If you want a form of memorialisation, you can provide login details to someone you trust and ask them to manage your account after your death, along with instructing your family members and executor not to deactivate it.
How can my family notify Twitter of my death?
What happens to my Snapchat account when I die?
Similar to Twitter, nothing will happen to your Snapchat unless someone notifies Snapchat of your passing, at which point they will remove your account.
How does Snapchat find out if someone has died?
Snapchat relies on other users to notify them on the death of a Snapchat user. Once they have verified the request is legitimate, they will remove the account.
How will my family notify Snapchat of my death?
Your family will need to contact Snapchat via this page on the support portal and selecting these options:
They will need to provide your Snapchat username and a copy of your death certificate.
Your Google account is a goldmine of information about you, and if you use Google wallet, may even contain financial assets forming part of your estate. It’s important to record your wishes regarding your Google account and any assets within it as part of your Estate Planning so your executor has the ability to handle the data and assets as you intend.
What happens to my Gmail and/or Google account after I die?
Google introduced the “Inactive Account Manager” feature allowing users to notify nominated people and share part or all of your account data with them. It allows you to set up a succession plan for your data, but it only kicks in after the period of inactivity you specify.
How does Google detect inactivity?
You have to turn this feature on and specify the time period after which Google should deem your account inactive. The default setting is three months.
Will Google try to contact me before marking my account inactive?
Google will attempt to notify you using the recovery email and mobile phone number you’ve set in your account. If you haven’t set these, you will need to do so before turning on Inactive Account Manager.
Can I choose who gets my Google data in the event of my death?
You can choose up to ten people to notify when your account becomes inactive. When you choose these people, you can also choose to grant them access to some or all of your Google data. Your Google account data includes all of your public data along with access to your Gmail, anything in your Google Drive, access to your Blogger sites, access to your YouTube account, and any other of your Google activities.
As part of this process you can set up an auto-reply to respond to incoming mail after your account is marked inactive, and you can choose to send to all or just to your contacts.
Can I request permanent deletion of my account in the event of my death?
Yes, when setting up Inactive Account Manager, you can choose whether to permanently delete your account after the set period of inactivity. If you’ve nominated people to receive your data, Google will give them three additional months to download it all before they wipe it from their servers.
How do I set up Inactive Account Manager?
You can find Inactive Account Manager in your Google account settings in the “Data & Personalisation” tab under “Download, delete, or make a plan for your account”. Click on “Make a plan for your account” and follow the steps. If you’re logged into your Google account now, you can find it here.
What happens if I haven’t set up Inactive Account Manager?
Your immediate family, executor, or other legal representative can submit a request to Google for access to your data, refund of funds held in your name, or deactivation of your account, using this form.
What information would my family need to request access, refunds, or closure of my Google account?
In all three cases, they will need to provide:
To close your account, they will need to state their relationship to you (i.e. whether they are your immediate family or your legal representative or executor).
To get a refund, they will need to provide the name of the desired payee for the account.
To gain access to your data, they will need a court order issued in the United States. Google can assist with wording for the application.
What happens to my LinkedIn account when I die?
LinkedIn has no way to prepare your account for the event of your death. Nothing will happen to your LinkedIn account unless someone reports it to them.
How does LinkedIn find out if someone has died?
LinkedIn relies on reports from family members or other users in the event of a death. Once notified, they will validate the information then remove the deceased person’s profile.
How should my family or colleagues notify LinkedIn if I die?
They can notify LinkedIn by filling out the Request removal of a deceased member's LinkedIn profile form.
What information will they need to provide to get my account deleted?
What happens to my FlyBuys points when I die?
FlyBuys has no options to prepare your account for your death. It also states in their terms & conditions that points are non-transferrable, non-saleable, and non-giftable. However, FlyBuys have demonstrated willingness to discuss options when an account holder dies which they will assess on a case-by-case basis. If the deceased person was a secondary member of an account, the account owner can simply remove their membership from the account.
How does FlyBuys find out if someone has died?
FlyBuys relies on your family or executor notifying them of your death. As mentioned above, they are willing to discuss options such as closing the account and transferring points which they will assess on the merits of the case and who the proposed recipient of the points is.
How should my family or executor notify FlyBuys of my death?
They should call FlyBuys on 13 11 16 or by mail to the address noted on their Contact Us page.
How can my family or executor close my FlyBuys account?
They should contact FlyBuys as stated above. If there are multiple account holders and they have not given their approval for closure, they will need to supply evidence that they have authority to act on behalf of your estate.
Airlines have tighter restrictions on their points programs, so it’s important to leave clear instructions for what to do with your points in the event of your passing.
What happens to my Qantas Frequent Flyer points when I die?
According to the Qantas Frequent Flyer terms & conditions, all points are forfeited when the member dies and are not accessible or transferrable. Ideally, you should transfer your points to an eligible family member before you pass away. You can only transfer a maximum of 600,000 points in a 12-month period but it’s better than them being lost forever.
What happens to my Virgin Velocity Frequent Flyer points when I die?
According to the Virgin Velocity Frequent Flyer terms & conditions, your points can be administered by the executor or administrator of your estate for a 12-month period following your death.
How do Airlines find out when someone dies?
The only way they will find out is if someone notifies them.
What happens to my Amazon account when I die?
Amazon is an interesting case because it includes so many different types of services. With your Amazon membership you may have access to:
Amazon has no structure in place to handle the death of account holders. Because Amazon accounts are a mixture of actual digital assets along with digital access rights and services that don’t form part of your estate, giving another individual access to your account is more complex. In the event of your death, your executor or loved ones should contact Amazon to discuss how to handle the digital assets held in the account.
Is there a workaround for digital asset issues to do with my Amazon account?
In short, yes - Amazon offers family sharing with Amazon Household. By setting up Amazon Household now, you can give your family members access to all your Amazon account benefits and services at no additional cost.
What is Amazon Household?
Amazon Household allows you to share your Prime Benefits and Digital Content with one other adult, four teens, and four children that live with you. The other adult and any children don’t need their own Amazon account but teens will need their own login, which you can set up when setting up Amazon Household.
What Amazon Prime benefits can I share?
The full list is found here.
What is Amazon Digital Content?
You can share this content, but you cannot share:
Can I remove an adult from my Amazon Household?
Yes, if things don’t work out the way you wanted them to, you can remove an adult from your Amazon Household. You can do the same thing if a spouse or partner dies by removing them from your account in your account dashboard.
What happens to my Alexa Routine/s?
There is no succession planning for Alexa Routines at this point in time, but anyone with access to the account can delete routines in the Alexa app. For more information go to the Create Alexa Routines for Smart Devices web page.
Can my family request closure of my Amazon account when I die?
Your family members can contact Amazon via their Contact Us web form and request closure of your account. Remember though that once your account is closed, all your content, including content on Amazon Drive and Prime Photos is erased which can’t be undone. Your Appstore purchases, customer profile information, reviews, photos, discussion posts, credit card information, and order history will also be erased. You can find out more information on the About Closing Your Account web page.
What happens to my iTunes music library when I die?
There is no succession planning for your music library, and there are reasonable grounds to assert that you do not have the right to bequeath ownership of it.
Is there a workaround for this?
You can get around this with Family Sharing, which lets you share your purchases with nominated members of your family who have iTunes or Apple app store accounts (they don’t have to live with you). Content shared with family through Family Sharing will still be accessible as long as the main account remains open.
What is Apple Family Sharing?
Family Sharing is Apple’s service that lets you create a family group to share purchased content with, including iTunes, Apple Books, and app store purchases. Also available is an Apple Music family subscription, a single iCloud storage account, and more. The main adult account holder is the Organiser and they choose the features to share and invites the family members that make up the Family Sharing profile. Each member of this Family Sharing profile has access to all the purchases made by other members. To set up Family Sharing, go to this web page and follow the steps.
What happens to the content on my Apple devices (e.g. iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV) when I die?
Apple has no policies concerning access to a deceased person’s devices. Here is one example where a questioner on Apple Communities was directed to bring an Apple Watch and the death certificate into an Apple store to gain access to the device. Beyond that there is no official policy from Apple.
Can my family access my Apple devices after I die without my account login details?
Again, there are no official policies. Here is one unfortunate example of a questioner on Apple Communities being advised to commence the process of wiping the machine to get access without a password – not an ideal scenario.
What happens to my eBay account when I die?
eBay offers no options to prepare your account prior to your death. They will remove the account of a deceased person when they are notified of the person’s passing.
How does eBay find out if someone has died?
Your family members or executor will need to notify eBay that you have passed away; eBay has no way of detecting the death of account holders outside of this.
How should my family nofity eBay that I have died?
Your family should contact eBay via their Customer Service portal.
What happens to my PayPal account when I die?
PayPal has no framework for preparing your account prior to your passing. They will, however, close the account of a deceased person and refund any balances to the estate.
How does PayPal find out if someone has died?
PayPal relies on the executor notifying them of the death of the account holder. The executor also needs to request account closure and refund of any balances.
How should my executor notify PayPal of my death?
The process is quite involved and can only be done by the executor or account administrator. All of the details are on this article in the PayPal help centre. It’s very important to note that if the account holder does not have a Will, PayPal will NOT process the request and any claims for funds will need to be made to the ASIC Unclaimed Money Unit.
How does my executor request closure of my account and refund of any money?
There are different requirements depending on if the executor is a statutory body or a person.
If the executor is a statutory body, they will need to provide:
If the executor is not a statutory body, they will need to provide:
Another important note is that the executor MUST request transfer of any money in the cover letter.
Are my debts forgiven on death?
This does not have a straightforward answer as there are a number of different scenarios which may affect whether the debt is forgiven or not. But in general, part of the executor’s job is settling up any outstanding debts and liabilities attached to the estate.
What happens once my PayPal account is closed?
Once your account is closed it is gone forever – and the transaction history with it – and cannot be reopened.
Your digital assets carry value like any other asset. As we’ve outlined above, it’s vitally important that you leave clear and detailed instructions for how to distribute your digital assets after you die. If you don’t, important content, personal information, and even real money, may be lost forever.
It can get very complicated with Digital Assets, so if you need help, don’t be afraid to approach a qualified Estate Planning Attorney, preferably one with experience in Digital Assets
And of course, don’t forget – OneWill offers the most comprehensive all-in-one place to include your Digital Assets in your estate planning. We make the process easier!