By Howard Simmons
The use of the computer and sites is rapidly changing. We need to be sure our families do not suffer after we are not here, says Howard Simmons while discussing the need to plan for digital assetsDavid Reynolds is a proud grandfather and a keen photographer. He has taken many pictures of all his grandchildren and the rest of his family for many years. He keeps all his pictures (now several thousand) on his iCloud account. Unfortunately, David Reynolds now has Alzheimer’s. Where are all his pictures? They are there in cyberspace but no one else knows his passcode to access the pictures.
Barbara Lindsay pays all her bills online, she also gets all her financial information online, such as credit card statements, bank statements investments realty tax, utility and many other bills. The bank Barbara has no physical branches and conducts its business only online. Barbara also has a lot of Aeroplan and Air Miles points. Barbara also has an online brokerage account.
Barbara has now died. How is her family going to access all this information if they do not have her passcode?
These are only a few examples of digital assets. They may not have value in the outside world, but they have great value to the people involved. What if a novelist has the latest, almost finished novel on the computer but no one has the passcode? What about the bookkeeping records for a small business?
How many passwords and accounts do you have? Are there accounts you don’t care about but others you want looked after.
Planning for your mental incapacity or death can now involve more than a will and power of attorney. However, this digital planning is not always clear. Should you leave your passcodes with someone you trust? Should you leave them with your will that is with your lawyer?
There is also the separate problem of someone not wanting anyone to access his or her private e-mails. Is there an expectation of privacy for these e-mails? There are also social media sites such as Facebook. As people die or become mentally incapable, Facebook and other sites become dormant.
At some time, there will be more dead people on Facebook than alive people. Do you want your Facebook page to live on as a memorial or to be terminated?
The use of the computer and sites is rapidly changing. We need to be sure our families do not suffer after we are not here.
Howard Simmons is a Partner at Simmons da Silva LLP