Close this search box.
Opinion Business Finance social media

Estate planning in the 21st century: Finance, Social media and digital information

3 min read

Many of us accumulate a huge amount of digital information from our finance websites and apps, social media etc. either on personal devices or on a third party’s server, during our lifetimes. Online banks, social media, subscriptions, share trading and email accounts are some examples of the things we sign up for on a monthly or even weekly basis, not to mention all the passwords and logins we collect along the way.

But what would happen to our digital assets and accounts if we die or become temporarily or permanently incapacitated?

Prioritise your passwords

Most of us don’t want to think about that, let alone consider all the places your passwords are recorded, or how someone would go about trying to recover those important login details we’ve forgotten or misplaced.

But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make it a priority because doing nothing can cost a lot financially and create confusion, angst and wasted time for the people who may need to access this information to act on your wishes.

The more information you can leave in an easily accessible but appropriately secure format for your solicitor or Executor, the better. Armed with the correct information, they will be able to act swiftly to ensure that your digital assets are dealt with appropriately and that your estate doesn’t incur any unnecessary expenses or delays.

Related: Opinion: What is a Trust and why could be worthwhile for you

Understand the Ts and Cs

The law in Australia is still complex and evolving when it comes to the ownership and transfer of digital information. It can involve a mix of local laws (which differ between states) as well as the contract terms of the Australian or international company you are dealing with.

Some of the more well-known firms including Google and Facebook, for example, allow an account trustee to download some of your account content if your account has been inactive for a certain amount of time. Then there’s the choice of Facebook’s memorialising service unless you specifically note in your will that you want your profile deleted. Other social media accounts offer similar approaches. All these services can be set up online by you now via the various providers.

You can also appoint someone specifically to access, manage, and delete your digital assets and records – a digital Executor.

Next steps

First of all, make a list of online entities and products you deal with, covering bank accounts, direct debits, insurance, and cryptocurrency, to name a few. Also include any personal accounts that you might want other people to benefit from, such as digital photos or document storage accounts, and any other subscriptions, like streaming services.

Remember to also include a corresponding set of usernames and passwords in this list.

Safety of this list is a priority so you could elect to keep it in a deposit box or a locked file cabinet. You can also research online password management services to help store these details or consider talking to an estate planning solicitor for specialist advice.

You’ll be amazed at the peace of mind you’ll achieve knowing your passwords and digital assets are ultimately taken care of and included in your estate plan.

Related: Free support program launches to help social sector organisations reset

Equity Trustees is a specialist in wills and estate planning, developed on a foundation of more than 130 years of experience. More information about Equity Trustees’ wills and estate planning services is available on our website.

Equity Trustees was established in 1888 for the purpose of providing independent and impartial Trustee and Executor services to help families throughout Australia protect their wealth. As Australia’s leading specialist trustee company, we offer a diverse range of services to individuals, families and corporate clients including asset management, estate planning, philanthropic services and Responsible Entity (RE) services for external Fund Managers.

+ posts

Susan is an Estate Planning Solicitor at Equity Trustees. Susan was admitted as a solicitor in 2012 and has worked exclusively in estate planning since admission. She has also had experience working in deceased estates and trust administration.

Susan enjoys working together with her clients on tailored solutions to achieve their estate planning objectives, whether it’s a simple review of existing documents or a complex estate plan with a diverse range of assets and relationships to consider.

Susan has three children, including a daughter with a rare chromosome deletion called Phelan-McDermid Syndrome. This personal experience has enabled Susan to form strong connections with clients who are also parents or carers of people with disabilities. Estate planning in these contexts can be very emotional and complex. Susan is passionate about helping her clients to establish appropriate estate planning structures that will protect their assets, and the best interests of their beneficiaries, well into the future


You Might also Like

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Stories

Next Up