Latimer Hinks Solicitors is calling for the Government to legislate in order to protect the digital legacies of those who have passed away.
The Darlington-based legal firm wants to see a change in the law to enable people to decide what will happen to their digital presence when they die.
Although families of the deceased are able to request access to digital assets, including social media accounts and cloud storage, or ask to have them deleted, the final decision rests with the service provider.
There is no consensus amongst online platforms as to who can gain access to digital assets and each provider has its own policies. For example, Facebook UK has a procedure, which allows the executor of a will to request that an account is shut down or ‘memorialised’, however, Google considers each case individually and may or may not heed to pleas from the deceased’s family.
Daniel Williams, solicitor at Latimer Hinks who specialises in wills, trusts and probate, believes that the UK Government should legislate to reflect the changing digital world and increasing number of people using online platforms, including social media, virtual currency, cloud storage and online banking.
He would like to see the introduction of a US-style extension of administrative powers to allow named trustees to manage all of the deceased’s property, including a person’s online presence.
Daniel said: “It’s time that the law reflected modern life. Currently there is no proper provision in UK Law, which properly grants executors and trustees the power to take ownership of the digital assets when dealing with the estate of a deceased person.
“This is fraught with difficulties and often emotion. People are increasingly using the internet for banking, paying bills and staying in touch with friends and family. All of this leaves a digital legacy, which ought to be properly managed when someone passes away.
“Ultimately though this is about allowing the deceased person’s wishes, preferably recorded in their last will and testament, being carried out in full. We need to follow the American’s lead and make sure that there is the legal power to properly deal with digital legacies.”