digital legacies

close down a deceased’s social media accounts

How do I close down the deceased's social media accounts?

The tricky subject of what happens to our social media accounts has, unsurprisingly, only become an issue over the last few years.  Although it is now widely recognised that individuals are likely to leave digital legacies as well as physical assets, there is as yet no law to govern what happens to them. In response, many social media and e-commerce platforms have introduced their own guidelines as to the procedure for closing down the account of a deceased person, as outlined in a recent "This is Money" article. Facebook Facebook has introduced a facility whereby a person can nominate a legacy contact who can make changes to their account after they've gone. This means that they can legitimately post notification of the death, update profile pictures and respond to friend requests.  If preferred however, the legacy contact may just be given authorisation to close down the account. Twitter To close down a Twitter account, the deceased's username and a copy of the death certificate must be supplied.  The person requesting the closure must also supply further details including their own name, contact information and relationship to the deceased. Gmail Google requires details including the name, postal and email address of the person seeking to close the account, along with a suitable form of ID. The Gmail address or Google username of the deceased, along with a copy of the death certificate, must also be supplied. iTunes Unfortunately, an iTunes account cannot be edited or deleted at this time, unless the deceased noted down their Apple ID and password.        

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Be careful of digital legacies

Be careful of digital legacies

Much is being made of digital legacies in the press once again, now that they are officially recognised by The Law Society protocol.  However, much confusion still reigns among the general public, with regard to what can actually be included within a digital legacy.

The whole point of a digital legacy is to leave specific instructions for your executors, for what to do with social media accounts and online bank accounts, as well as material including music and photographs.  Prepare a list now, detailing any online bank accounts or savings accounts, social media accounts and films, photos or music stored online.  In this way, your executors will be able to access everything much faster and easier, distributing assets and content in the way in which you requested.

It is NOT recommended that you store information regarding passwords and PIN numbers – particularly if they are needed to access sensitive financial information such as online bank accounts. Indeed, should the executor tap into any of your accounts using these details, they will then become liable for prosecution under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

What I would like to emphasise however, is that although a person who is now deceased may have purchased online copies of songs, films or artwork, they did not purchase the copyright.  This means that copyright still belongs to the artist and that it cannot therefore be sold to anyone else.

Online material and accounts may now form part of our everyday life, but this does not mean that they can be treated in the same way as any  physical assets which the deceased person leaves behind.

Digital legacies – what are they?

The term “digital legacy” has recently come to light following a well publicised battle by Hollywood actor Bruce Willis to include the alleged thousands of dollars’ worth of iTunes material he has collected, as part of his Will.
 
In the good old days, record collections – whether valuable or not, were often left to specific beneficiaries. However, we now of course tend not to have vinyl in our collection, but sound files which we download from sites including iTunes.
 
However, what many people still fail to appreciate is that although we have spent often a considerable amount of money on purchasing this music or these films online, the material still doesn’t belong to us. Apple in particular states that although we have paid our money, they are still “on loan” to us and therefore, we cannot pass the material on to our beneficiaries, in the event of our death.
 
This public battle is certain to encourage changes in probate law both in the UK and the US, as surely, these sites cannot continue to legitimately and deliberately confuse the term “purchase” with its actual meaning in context here: “pay to borrow”. This in turn may lead to the birth of the concept “digital legacy”.

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