What is Cyber Inheritance?

The sheer volume of information that is created online today is mind-boggling. And as the intellectual property rights in this information grow, the value of these assets is growing too. A very relevant question then is what happens when the owner of these digital assets passes away? Who inherits the assets and how?

Your digital assets may be downloaded software, passwords to various accounts including online banking accounts as well as other downloaded content. Who gets access to this content after you die?

One solution that is being offered is by Google for all Google run accounts. Here users may specify which of their trusted contacts will be permitted to access their various accounts after their death. Before this announcement, though, this access was not permitted due to privacy laws.

Digital property is not like tangible assets in the fact that they cannot as easily be bequeathed to heirs. The law in this area is unclear on how these assets are to be passed on to loved ones. Services like Legacy Locker permits its users to store online passwords so that executors and personal representatives can access online accounts following their death. Other cloud based services do not permit this unless given specific instructions upon death.

So, one good idea is to make sure that you leave clear instructions in your Will about who is to receive your digital assets as well as a personal letter to the executors of your will with the details of the usernames and passwords. Also, instructions must be left in your Will to your service providers about what is to be done with the assets and whether the accounts should then be shut or continued.