Firm head flags digital asset headwinds impacting client wills
The founder of a Queensland-headquartered law firm has highlighted the need for wills and estate lawyers to ensure their clients are properly protected, with the reliance on digital assets creating some important considerations.
According to Lockett McCullough’s Courtney Lockett, a modern and emerging aspect of estate planning is “dealing with digital assets like social media”. With so many people utilising such technology, Ms Lockett warned that without a will, one’s “identity, digital footprint and privacy is at risk”.
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“In a society that is so reliant on the internet, it’s important individuals write into their Will what they want to happen to their life, their digital life when they die or if left incapacitated,” Ms Lockett said.
“Previously, important documents, photos and memorabilia of our life was put in a photo album or secured in a box or a filing cabinet. But these days, the most complete record of our life is out there – and stored online.”
To further her point, Ms Lockett pointed to a study by NSW Trustee and Guardian that found 83 per cent of Australians had not discussed what will happen to their social media accounts when they die. Further, just 3 per cent of Australians with a will had given instructions regarding their social media accounts, the study found.
“A Will also protects these online assets and reduces the risk of social media accounts being hijacked or hacked. It can be quite unsettling to get a ‘Like’ on your Facebook page from someone who’s been dead for 12 months,” Ms Lockett added.
“Identity theft is an increasingly important issue and one of the biggest threats comes from criminals stealing the identity of someone who is deceased.
“We shouldn’t assume that everyone wants their digital assets to be passed on or managed by someone else after they have died.”