What happens to your online accounts after you die?

Published: 27 Mar 2018

Have your say on laws that affect access to a person’s digital assets after they die or become incapacitated.

The Law Reform Commission is exploring whether NSW needs legislation to regulate who can access the digital assets of a person who has died or is incapacitated.

Digital assets can include photographs, videos, emails, online banking accounts, cryptocurrency, domain names, blogs and online gaming accounts. They can have significant personal, sentimental and even financial value.

Some service providers allow for an account to be memorialised or handed over to an administrator after death, while others simply close the account.

The Law Reform Commission will look at whether additional privacy protections are needed in situations where a person hasn’t made arrangements for anyone to take control of or access their digital assets. The review will consider:

  • relevant NSW, Australian and international laws, including those relating to intellectual property, privacy, contract, crime, estate administration, wills, succession and assisted-decision making
  • the policies and terms of service agreements of social media companies and other digital service providers.

Attorney General Mark Speakman said few of us consider what happens to our digital assets once we’re gone or are no longer able to make decisions.

“Family, friends and lawyers are left to untangle digital asset ownership issues, applying laws that were developed long before the arrival of email, blogs, social media and cryptocurrency,” Mr Speakman said.

“When a loved one passes away, bureaucratic hurdles and legal uncertainty are the last thing families and friends feel like confronting, so we need clear and fair laws to deal with these 21st Century problems."

Have your say via the NSW Law Reform Commission website

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