You spend a lot of time with your advisor discussing your financial goals now and for the future, and that often involves your estate and what happens to your assets after you’ve lost capacity or pass away. Increasingly however, our lives are becoming more digital, and we often forget to include our online assets in our wills and final wishes.
Have you considered what will happen to your online banking profile, social media accounts, or email accounts after you die? Each and every website has different rules surrounding what happens to your account and who is allowed to access it after death. There are some social media sites allow you to designate an account manager, however, across most of Canada, there is no legislation at the federal or provincial level that addresses whether or not your executor has the right to access your digital assets after you pass away. For this reason, it makes sense to include a Digital Legacy clause in your will.
The Digital Legacy clause should address three important things. First, it should specify what you want to happen to your online accounts; should they be closed altogether, or would you like your executor to manage them for a period of time? Secondly, the clause should give your executor explicit authority to access your digital accounts. There is no guarantee that each website where you have an account will abide by your wishes, but by at least including the instructions in a legal document, you have given your executor the power to petition for access on your behalf. Thirdly, the clause should give the executor the power to administer those accounts.
Alberta implemented legislation in 2015 that extended the authority of the executor to include an estate’s digital assets, and actually includes it as an executorial duty to identify digital property. All other provinces however, have yet to implement any mention of digital assets in their estate legislation. Ideally, you should still provide your executor with a list of up to date login information, such as usernames and passwords in order for them to access your important accounts. This can be a cumbersome process to keep up with, especially if you change your passwords as often as recommended. There are mobile apps and websites available that can help you keep all your passwords in one place, and that way you would only have to provide your executor with one username and password in order to access all of your digital information. It is also useful to include information on any loyalty plans you belong to, and know what would happen to those accounts in the event of your passing, as some loyalty programs are very valuable.
These are important conversations to have with your lawyer when you are creating your will and power of attorney documents. If you would like to discuss your current will and power of attorney, or if you are thinking of updating your will in the near future and would like some advice, please contact your advisor for an appointment.