(NC)—What happens to your digital assets when you pass away? The management of virtual estates, including online properties such as email accounts, blogs, social media accounts and other web-based services, is a new and emerging field of law. In Canada, there are currently no specific laws related to virtual estates, although there are some consumer protection laws that could be applied.
It may seem daunting to map out your digital footprint (especially if you are a heavy e-commerce or social media user) but a few practical questions can help you get started and ensure your online property is protected:
• Which types of digital assets do you possess? Virtual assets can be divided into three categories: First, accounts with virtual property such as music, movies and photos; second, accounts with real currency such as online bank accounts, online payment tools, and paid music downloads or video streaming services; and third, accounts with personal information such as social media sites and online gaming accounts.
• Where are your accounts located? Create a list of all of the online accounts you hold.
• How can an executor or estate trustee access your accounts?
“It is important to save information about your virtual estate in a way that can be safely and securely passed on to an executor or estate trustee when that time comes,” says Ray Leclair, vice president of public affairs at LAWPRO. “A lawyer can advise on strategies to manage and pass on your online properties.”
When choosing an estate trustee or executor, it might be in your best interest to choose someone who is comfortable with technology – especially if you have an extensive digital presence such as a small e-business or a blog that generates income. Be sure to provide detailed instructions for your executor on how you want these assets dealt with. Speaking with a lawyer about your digital assets and having these items included in your will or power of attorney documents can help simplify the potentially complex and confusing transfer of your virtual estate, and also help to safeguard your digital legacy.