As everyday life has gone online over the last 12 months and we have been confined due to COVID-19 we are creating an ever increasing list of passwords and login ID’s in order to access bank accounts, utility information, share schemes, pensions and grocery lists. For obvious security reasons we are encouraged to make the passwords as complicated as possible with numbers, letters and symbols to ensure the ever watchful hackers can’t get to our hard earned cash and personal data. In order to save your brain, there are Apps to enable you to only remember one password and login which acts as a gatekeeper to all the other passwords but the real advice is not to keep that list online.
I am sure the more organised amongst us, have never been locked out of an account, or had to try to remember their first primary school crush in order to understand why their mobile phone bill could possibly be that high and then suffered the ultimate ignominy of being frozen out of your own accounts.
So what should we be thinking about as our digital assets?
Well there is the wealth of photographs either stored on your phone or ‘in the cloud’ – memories of sunnier, brighter less COVID times. Holidays with the family or friends, beers on the beach or glühwein in the snow. Online books, blogs, domain names, gaming avatars. Emails from friends in Australia, videos of first steps; graduations; weddings and Christmases past. And that is just the personal stuff.
What about your business accounts; contracts with suppliers; business intellectual property; architectural drawings; business plans; Directors policies and pensions. Are they stored on an external hard drive?
Who can access these accounts, policies and information apart from you? What happens if you lose capacity or die? Does your business have a separate IT administrator and what ability would they have to disclose any of this information if you became incapacitated – I would wager – none.
So what should you be doing?
Review the terms and conditions when creating online accounts of any nature, whether to store documents, accounts or photographs.
Be aware of the ISP, google for example, if an account becomes inactive. They retain rights to permanently delete or destroy information where accounts are deemed dormant, before anyone has an opportunity to save the memories stored there.
Facebook has a policy for memorialisation to allow content to be preserved but it needs to be formally triggered.
The irony is, that you are now encouraged to print photos and documents and keep them in a ‘safe place’. After years of being told I am behind the times, my fountain pen is coming back into vogue! Retain copies of key documents and data on a personally owned device rather than storing solely online, this will enable anyone trying to access information on your behalf, whether in the capacity as Attorney or Executor considerably greater flexibility.
Have you got anything stored online which is sensitive in nature and what would happen to it if you are not around to be able to do so? Access to business emails needs to be handled carefully and should form part of your consideration for business succession planning together with a Business Lasting Power of Attorney.
If you have assets held online that have more than sentimental value and hold an Intellectual Property value, then these assets need to be considered carefully and how they are accessed in your absence.
So what’s the advice? Make your digital assets log including logins and passwords, print it off and keep it safe and up to date - ideally with your wills and LPAs. Perhaps you could buy yourself a Filofax at the same to keep them in!