There can be no doubt that the internet has revolutionised our daily lives, making things like paying bills, shopping, as well as communications so much easier, and in many cases cheaper. This can be achieved with a simple click of a button and all without leaving the house. Yet, as many families of those who die are discovering, the internet can also make things more difficult.
This is a relatively new development that has been created by the very things that were meant to – and indeed do – make our lives easier. Many people conduct all of their financial affairs online, whether filing their taxes, paying debts or managing their accounts, and any standing orders or direct debits continue to be paid until you take steps to stop them. People are rightly told by the different institutions and/or websites with which they hold accounts not to share sensitive information such as passwords and pin numbers with anyone else.
With this in mind, settling your affairs can be a big problem for your family members after your death, because they are unable to gain access to your accounts, and in the absence of paper documentation are unable to determine with whom these accounts are kept. Even things like closing down email accounts or social media profiles will be difficult in the absence of the correct log-in information.
The internet is great, but not yet that great
As stated in Saga Legal’s exhaustive Digital Legal Guide, the ‘internet is not yet intuitive enough’ to realise that someone has died and many surviving family members and friends will have experienced a heartbreaking reminder of this as Facebook implores them to wish the deceased a happy birthday. The same is true for online shopping sites until they are no longer able to debit a bank account that has been frozen upon the provision of a death certificate.
The aforementioned Saga Digital Legal Guide advises that you should treat your digital legal in much the same way that you should treat your Will. Many do not pay digital information with the same heed because of the developing nature of the laws governing internet usage, but this is perhaps an even greater reason to ensure that your loved ones have access, as it will overcome such legal ambiguities.
This can be achieved by creating a secure online directory, which gives details all of your active internet accounts along with how you wish for them to be dealt with.