Thirty years ago, many people did not expect so much of their lives would be bound to the digital world. Nevertheless, countless people now store their photos, investments, bank information and other personal information online. When they pass away, it often causes problems for their loved ones.
In fact, one widow in Ontario is currently in litigation to gain access to the documents her husband stored on iCloud, but Apple refuses to release them to her.
A dying wish upended
When he learned he was going to die from a rare form of cancer, the man began to chronicle his illness on his Apple device and store it on iCloud. His dying wish was that his wife would take those notes and write a book to tell his story. Despite inheriting all of her husband’s assets – including his digital assets – without his password, she could not access the documents. Even after the widow turned over proof of her ownership of the online assets, Apple insisted she obtain a court order, which would cost her thousands of dollars.
Why all the fuss?
The problem is that private U.S. companies, such as Apple and Facebook, often follow outdated laws that are not compatible with Canadian laws. This can create confusion, stress and financial hardships for those who inherit digital assets in US-based formats but do not have access to them, because they don’t have the necessary passwords. Until a national law is passed, many more may struggle with this problem.
Those who have digital assets – such as bank accounts, social media pages or cloud accounts – would be wise to learn the steps their heirs will have to follow to obtain access to those assets and avoid litigation. You may find that including access information in your estate plan can relieve your loved ones of this burden. Speaking with an experienced legal professional is a good way to learn about your estate planning options for your digital assets.