Scots are leaving their loved ones open to distress and hassle by overlooking their online lives in their will – according to both legal and cyber security experts. The warning comes despite an Edinburgh headquartered law firm recording a significant upsurge in the number of clients asking for advice on how to include their digital estate, such as online financial accounts, passwords and even access to social media pages.
Yet because of the rate at which our lives are moving online, lawyers at Boyd Legal are urging people to engage in a conversation with family members about their accounts – and their advice chimes with the recommendations of one of Scotland’s top cybersecurity experts.
Graeme Thomson (pictured) Senior Associate Solicitor with the firm’s Private Client team, believes that the speed at which huge parts of day-to-day life have transitioned online could leave people in a difficult situation trying to rescue loved ones’ sensitive data.
He said: “We still see an imbalance between the value placed on physical assets and digital assets. It can still be difficult to get people to consider online activity in their wills, especially accounts ranging from Paypal to Facebook – plus we are told on a regular basis to keep all passwords and details under strict lock and key.
“Another stumbling block is that it is easy to imagine the fall-out from a dispute over a prized item of furniture if it is not recorded properly in the will. Likewise, it is easy to forget or underestimate the issues surrounding accessing an old ebay account – or even the complications arising should accounts be hacked or identities stolen. What is important is that the details are ultimately shared with an executor, and a trusted password manager can allow the details to remain secure – and accessible only when needed.”
One of Scotland’s top cybersecurity experts has also warned of the dangers of neglecting online estates.
Gerry Grant, Chief Ethical Hacker with the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, said: “This is a difficult subject that has perhaps not received enough attention – and to date there is a lack of coherent advice in the public realm. We recommend using a well-known, trusted, password manager which features an “emergency kit” whereby in certain circumstances, such as a death or illness, the info can be accessed by a chosen family member, friend or guardian.”
Graeme also revealed that individuals should even be considering accounts including iTunes.
He added: “The best bet for anyone unsure is to firstly think very hard and note down all the places you have accounts that hold any sort of value. It is hard to imagine just how many Paypal accounts or similar – to a value of hundreds of pounds – may have gone unclaimed in recent years.
“Identify and speak with your chosen executor and then make sure you then consult a specialist lawyer to ensure your wishes are accurately and legally reflected in your will.”