As we approach the third decade of the 21st century, protecting digital assets – E-security, the passwords, encrypted data and protected databases – that act as guardians to our lives are increasingly important. From credit cards to crypto-currencies, from Siri to social housing portfolios, from Twitter accounts to tax codes, sensitive data is directly linked to the security of your assets whether physical, virtual, social, or reputational.
The benefits of making a Will are clear – you have your affairs in order during your lifetime, and everything you have worked so hard to build, grow, and protect are given to those who you want to receive it. This may have been true up to and including the late 20th century, but that was 20 years ago and a Will in itself no longer ensures your estate can be distributed according to your wishes. How so? Your Will appoints executors and trustees to manage and distribute your estate. They cannot, however, do this unless they have full access to the life as you left it. E-security needs to keep pace with e-piracy; the deliberate, damaging, and highly profitable theft of your assets through electronic means. The reality is that effective e-security equates into increasingly protective but increasingly complex and hard-to-access security measures that protect by unique and often multiple encryption, passwords and codes. An executor without these encounters immediate problems, causing damaging delays which bring with them emotional and economic cost at an already difficult time for those you care about.
One option is to keep a copy of your passwords at home, or your place of work. However, these are only as secure as the device, or furniture drawer, you have stored them in.
Another option is to place a copy of your passwords with your Will, securely stored at your solicitor’s office. Whilst this is more secure, it may be less practical as it relies upon you writing out a new document and remembering to make arrangements to remove and replace the old document from the solicitor’s vault each and every time just a single password is changed. Current commentary recommends passwords are changed regularly to reduce the chances of e-pirates obtaining longer-standing passwords. In effect this means updating the document several times each year. You then leave your passwords to your executors so they can access the specific account you wish them too. The issue here will then be whether you want your password to accounts with finances in left to the executor or not and whether your bank will permit this.
A third option is to subscribe to a secure database which can hold all your passwords and grant you access to update them as and when needed. At SO Legal we can provide a service that holds your secure passwords with your Will and your instructions on how to release these passwords to any third party. This service is attached to the Will and for a fee we can store this in our secure wills archive with your Will. Ask us about this valuable service.
What of cryptocurrencies? The advent of Bitcoin and other ‘cryptocurrencies’ have given people access to virtual money. Something away from fiat currencies and where the blockchain mechanism makes it virtually anonymous. What if your executors were unable to access the assets? The password for sites such as binance and two-step verification make it almost impossible to obtain the information unless somebody leaves this to you to be able to access. Do you want to lose this valuable asset which like any can appreciate in value as the recent surge in the value of Bitcoin attested?
In an age where e-security is only as secure as the means by which its passwords and codes are created and stored, it is time to recognise that where there’s a Will there’s a way, but only insofar as your digitally-protected assets are accessible to those entrusted to carry out your wishes when the time comes. Do not leave this to be sorted after you have gone as this will only increase the time and cost of your executors contacting every account to get access to your account.