If you are reading this article, you are also doing other things on the internet at the same time. Likely, you have multiple tabs open with your email, Facebook, blogs, and other sites you visit regularly. What would happen to all those accounts if you passed away? What would you want to happen to those accounts?
There aren’t any laws in Canada that deals with online accounts after death and there haven’t been any cases in this area yet. But your online life can have significant sentimental value (i.e., Facebook or Flickr photos or a personal blog, etc.) and also a monetary value (i.e., Paypal or online gaming accounts).
Terms of service for all these accounts will set out what the service provider’s terms are in the event of a death. If you read a few terms of service, you will notice they are all different and you may not end up with the result you want.
Take the time to think about all your online accounts and what you might want to happen to them after you pass away. If these accounts are important to you, you need to list these accounts and include clear instructions to a specific person about your wishes with respect to these accounts after your death. You will also need to consider how this person will access your accounts after your death.
Providing access to your accounts after death can be tricky. We are always signing up for new services and changing passwords. One option to provide access after death is to include a list of the accounts and passwords in a sealed envelope with your lawyer. This would need to be changed when passwords change. You could also track passwords and save them in an electronic file on your computer, smartphone or use an online service like LastPass, and then leave instructions with your lawyer about how the electronic list can be accessed. On a personal note, I use LastPass and have left instructions to an individual I trust about how to access that account (and thus all of my online accounts) after my death. There are also fee-based online service providers who will store passwords and release information after your death such as LegacyLocker.
As with any other estate planning issue, be sure to discuss your online life or digital assets and accounts with the lawyer who prepares your wills, so he or she can ensure that your wishes are addressed.
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Michele R.J. Allinotte is the owner of Allinotte Law Office Professional Corporation in Cornwall, Ontario and she helps her clients make the best decisions for themselves, their families and their businesses. Her practice focuses on the areas of business law, estate planning and real estate. Visit www.YourCornwallLawyer.com to get her FREE Peace of Mind Personal Inventory to make sure that your family has all the information they need.