Digital assets

Planning for the administration of digital assets by your executor after death is becoming an increasingly complex and pressing problem.

What does an executor do with an online bank account? First, the executor has to know that it exists. If all records are kept either online or in computer files, this becomes very difficult. Increasingly, organisations are providing clients/customers with relevant information about their accounts by email only.

Most email services have good search facilities. If you conduct a search on words like “Commonwealth Bank”, “accounts”, “shares”, etc, you may find a great deal about relevant assets. But what if you do not have the password for the deceased’s email account?

Is there an eBay account? Is there a Facebook account? Are regular direct debits from the deceased’s accounts continuing to be made?

These examples are only scratching the surface of the digital world, and the associated problems with it. It is an almost insoluble problem for solicitors engaged in estate planning. Even if a client gave their solicitor a complete list of digital information, passwords, etc, it is very unlikely indeed that this information would be fully accurate six months later, let alone a decade or more.

Technical solutions might emerge with the passage of time, but at present there are no easy ways for a legal representative, such as an executor, to identify and administer many, if not most, digital assets.


© Peter Gauld LL.B.

Peter J. R. Gauld LL.B

Gauld & Co. Elder Law Solicitors

Suite 5, 1st Floor,

838 Glenferrie Road,

Hawthorn, Melbourne, Australia, 3122.

03 9024 3868

0401 230 711

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