Make a Will. Make a List. Think Digital
If you die …….. – perhaps I should start again.
WHEN you die.
Yes that has a better ring to it. Because, you will. Sorry about that.
Some folk obsess about their coming deaths, some are terrified. Philip Larkin was the expert -Link Here-
It seems to me that unlike Larkin most folk put the matter at the back of their minds and concentrate on choosing a new car.
The fact is, we are all of us in a short term period and when it’s over it’s over. During our short lives, we tend to accumulate STUFF. For thousands of years this has been going on, and accordingly there has been plenty of time for the law to grow and take account of this human state of affairs.
There is a plentiful case-law and statue basis to regulate how we can make our wills and how the STUFF we leave behind is to be valued and what tax is to be paid on it and who can be “executors” appointed to deal with all this work. There are rules about Trusts, and estate management and the giving of gifts and surviving seven years and different inheritance tax rates for gifts to spouses and on it goes, and the lawyers have done it all before.
A problem arises however when a new technology disrupts all the previous ways of doing things.
For example, first mobile phones came into existence, and then the law noticed and regulation was invented to deal with it. Thirty or so years ago I was an “early adopter” of a Motorola mobile phone with perhaps thirty minutes talk time – ten hours to charge.
I used to dread it ringing if I was on a train, – embarrassing or what?
So that’s something that has swept the world – the phones arrived first, then the law caught up to deal with it.
Now someone invents Digital Currency, that’s Bitcoin right? Up to a point, Lord Copper. The internet carries a Digital Currency index of 1372 entries. Should you buy Bitcoin? But what about Pirl? Or Crypto Bullion? What what?
This seems to be an areas of assets which most of us have never heard of and people who probably don’t understand it (and if they think they do perhaps that’s only what they think) have nevertheless invested millions of real pounds into buying and selling it.
So in the last few years, millions, billions of pounds of value, exists ONLY inside computers.
So after thousands of years of folk being born and accumulating STUFF and then dying in a regulated world where the transmission of STUFF [less tax] to the next generation is clearly choreographed, now folk are dying as the owners of NEWSTUFF.
It’s STUFF, but it can only be found inside a computer. The law has not caught up.
And now when you die, your family or whoever goes into your study and can’t find a safe or a filing cabinet with a paper file list of all your investments and of where they are, what Bank, what sort code. Instead they find your iPad. And that’s it. And they don’t know how to open it and have a look.
Now if you were still alive, you could enter the locking password, and see what secrets the iPad holds.
If you are dead and have not told anyone at all what your password is, that might be the beginning of a world of pain for your loved ones.
If you have made your Will [You have made your Will, Haven’t you?] then you will have named your choice of persons to act as your Executors. Their job is to ascertain all of your assets, and realise them and pass them across to their new owners in accordance with your Will.
On the other hand, if all they have to start with is the knowledge that on your iPad is a document called “Open this when I am Dead” – but the iPad is locked ……
It seems that it is possible for Apple or the FBI to open a locked iPad. But they won’t do it for you. There are ways to get the iPad going again, but they involve restoring the device, and thereby wiping all of its previous contents so that you start again as if it were new. Not too useful.
So at the very least, put your Will in a drawer in your house and in the same envelope put in the necessary codes to open your computer.
And if you are the Executor, once you are inside the computer, take care. The on-line “assets” of the deceased computer-owner will be held on the basis of the terms and conditions of the relevant on-line provider. You know, those boring pages full of stuff we never read before we tick the button that says ”I have read and accept these terms”.
So bear in mind that it is not necessarily a matter of logging in to those assets using the i/d and password of the deceased. That might be a criminal office. If you find my i/d and password details for my bank and use them to log in – that is a crime whilst I am alive. And likely enough, whilst I am dead also.
And if the deceased has an Amazon prime or Netflix or Spotify account, can anyone continue to use them after his/her death? If s/he has ten children can s/he leave all the Kindle electronic books collection to each of them? You can’t do that with real books. And an iTunes music collection? It might have cost thousands of pounds for a huge collection of music, but the right to listen to any of it dies with the deceased.
It is a minefield and the law is not yet up to speed with the issues.
The best you can do I suggest, is make your Will with a Solicitor who is alive to all of these issues [see what I did there?] and make specific provision for each of your digital assets.
And don’t forget, tell them the unlock code for your device!
In the meantime –Link Here- Life’s A Gas
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