Gary Rycroft column

Gary Rycroft.
Gary Rycroft.

I was on the BBC5Live Breakfast Show this week talking to the Radio 1 DJ Annie Nightingale about her massive collection of music on iTunes and what would happen to it if she died.

She was concerned because like everyone else who subscribes to iTunes, the music isn’t hers in the same way a record or CD is.

She has the benefit of the digital music under a licence, so if she died, unlike a record or CD it wouldn’t be a tangible asset to pass on to her chosen beneficiaries.

She could download all of her music onto one device (like an mp3 player) and pass the device on under her Will, but if someone else used her password to access her account that would be a breach of her agreement with iTunes and anyone using someone else’s passwords on a computer may be committing a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

It’s all a bit of a legal tangle.

Facebook recently announced a change in the way they will preserve what they term “legacies on Facebook”, in other words what they will and will not do 
with your account post death.

This is indicative of a growing awareness by specialist solicitors of the need to deal with digital assets on death.

The digital age knows no barriers age wise - young and old can have electronic books and music, a social media presence and online bank accounts and investments - and this is increasing the need for legal advice from an expert who is aware of the need to identify, locate and deal with a deceased’s digital life.

If you want to protect your digital legacy, the starting is to make a Will.

The executors named in your Will are people who will be responsible for collecting the assets in your estate and passing them on to your chosen beneficiaries.

However, there is one thing that is not recommended to do online - and that is make a Will.

For something as important as that interaction with a real, live solicitor is always preferable.